Peter Delbridge

30 November 2001

Peter Delbridge

Peter Delbridge farms 162ha

(400 acres) in the Exmoor

National Park, near South

Molton, Devon. The farm is

mostly permanent grass,

classed as less favoured and

environmentally sensitive,

and all above 300m

(1000ft). It is stocked with

800 ewes, replacement ewe

lambs, 60 spring calving

sucklers and their followers

WHAT a cracking autumn. Even though the livestock sector is burdened with ignorant ministers and bungling civil servants who have mislaid the blood samples which would enable Devon to gain disease free status, Mother Nature has at least been on our side.

With cattle still out – already a month longer than last year – so far the winter is 20% shorter than anticipated. With little rainfall, their nutritional requirements have been modest and they are in excellent condition. It is strange seeing cows lying around on late November afternoons as though it was August.

Ewes, when docked and given fluke, worm and multivitamin drenches, were also looking well. They too have benefited from lack of rain and excellent late season grass growth.

To cap it all, due to the proposed resumption of exports, the finished lamb price has jumped 50p/kg in three weeks. Although there is only one south west county able to export lamb, I suspect there are fewer lambs about than previously thought and prices may firm further.

I realise I am in danger of becoming over optimistic. But this has been tempered by the speed the animal health bill is proceeding through parliament. It is an unjust, draconian and sinister law, considering we are supposed to live in a democratic country.

With on-farm jobs under control and no markets or hunting to attend, we decided to have a few days away. With no movement licences or biosecurity to worry about for a week, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Tending the livestock was left to friend and neighbouring farmer John-boy, under fathers stewardship. The only other scheduled task while we were away, involved contractors trimming hedges. They looked very tidy on our return late one evening.

It wasnt until the next morning, when we looked over the lawn now resembling the Somme, I deduced garden hedges had received the same treatment. Lawns apparently do not cope well with large John Deere tractors, even with low pressure tyres. Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock, come on down. &#42

Hedges looked neat when Peter Delbridge returned from holiday, even those in his garden – although the lawn looked like the Somme.

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