Rural round-up

December 12, 2018

Inspirational focus in driving NZ wool business honoured – Sally Rae:

Dave Maslen is a reluctant sustainability superstar.

The New Zealand Merino Co’s general manager for markets and sustainability was a finalist in the sustainability superstar category in the recent NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

The category, won by Waikato dairy farmer Tracy Brown, celebrated people who inspired and led others to make a difference.

Mr Maslen’s own nomination came as a surprise and he was reluctant to be singled out, saying it was “most definitely” a team effort. . . 

Leaders discuss sustainable farming – Sally Rae:

Agriculture, as a whole, needs to be brave.

That was the take-home message for North Otago dairy farmer Lyndon Strang after attending the annual DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders Forum in Wellington recently.

The three-day event was attended by nearly 100 dairy farming leaders who discussed sustainable farming and progressed goals for the future.

Mr Strang and his wife Jane milk 450 cows at Five Forks and run a self-contained operation, wintering all cows, rearing young stock and growing the majority of their supplements. . . 

Waimea Dam to aid eels on journey to Pacific – scientist – Tracy Neal:

The Waimea Dam will improve the health of the river downstream, and ensure the path of eels to their breeding grounds in the Pacific is not hindered, a freshwater scientist says.

The Tasman District Council recently voted to go ahead with the $105 million irrigation and urban supply scheme, despite levels of public opposition, mainly over cost.

Scientist Roger Young, from Nelson’s Cawthron Institute, has been involved in the project since its inception. . .

More farmers feel under financial pressure:

Farmer satisfaction with their banks is dropping, and more are feeling they are under financial pressure, the Federated Farmers November Banking Survey shows.

While 73.7% of the 750 farmers who responded to the Research First-conducted survey said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their bank, that was a drop of 5% since the previous survey in May.   It’s also the lowest satisfaction level recorded in any of the 10 surveys conducted since 2015.

“The results show a need for renewed efforts to improve relationships between farmers and banks,” Federated Farmers Economics and Commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

SenseHub monitors treats – Sonita Chandar:

Consumers of Nestle products can be assured the treats they like best have been made with milk from happy, healthy cows.

As part of Nestle’s commitment on animal welfare it has partnered with Antelliq’s Allflex on a pilot programme to monitor dairy cows’ wellbeing through Allflex’s SenseHub on several Nestle farms.

The collaboration aims to provide Nestle with full visibility into the wellbeing of individual cows and the herd according to a set of key performance indicators. . . 

Group of sheep breeders running parasite resistant stock:

A group of leading sheep breeders have formed WormFEC Gold to show farmers that breeding for parasite resistant genetics will strengthen flocks and save time and money on-farm.

Growing concerns from farmers around increasing levels of drench resistance, rising farming input costs, and issues getting farm labour have prompted 10 WormFEC breeders from across New Zealand to join forces. The breeders’ group brings together more than 200 years combined experience breeding highly productive, parasite resistant rams.

Chairman Robert Peacock of Orari Gorge Station in South Canterbury said the WormFEC Gold group aims to show farmers that breeding sheep for parasite resistance is achievable and will save farmers time and money. He said breeding animals with natural resistance to parasites is part of the long-term sustainable solution for parasite management. . . 

Researchers conclude livestock have no detectable effect on climate – Amanda Radke:

Cow burps are destroying the ozone layer — we’ve all heard that one, and frankly, it’s time for the industry to ditch that myth once and for all.

As our industry zeroes in on topics of sustainability and ways we as beef producers can improve for the better, I continue to beat the same drum — cattlemen and women already do a spectacular job of managing our land and water to produce more beef using fewer resources.

Simply stated, beef production isn’t just sustainable; it’s regenerative. And despite what the naysayers claim, cattle grazing and consuming by-products of crop production play a critical role in our ecosystem. . .

 


Rural round-up

October 24, 2018

She Shears star Jills Angus Burney surprises audience at hometown screening – Sam Kilmister:

Shearing ace Jills Angus Burney​ wouldn’t be where she was today if she hadn’t picked up a handpiece nearly 40 years ago. 

That’s what the Feilding-born barrister and shearer told audiences as she surprised them during a hometown screening of her movie She Shears at Focal Point Cinema last weekend. 

The film, which premiered earlier this month at the New Zealand Film Festival, follows the fortunes of five female shearers as they prepare for New Zealand’s annual Golden Shears competition.  . . 

Big investor goes others dig deep – Richard Rennie:

The off-again, on-again Waimea Dam has dodged the loss of its mystery $11 million backer with some of the existing irrigation investors reaching into their pockets to make up the difference.

“At the end of the day the terms were not acceptable and it made more sense for the existing investors to take up the unallocated shares,” Waimea Irrigators spokesman Murray King said.

A key concern of the group is the apportioning of risk, with the investor carrying less while Waimea Irrigators carried substantially more.

A group of 14 businesses will collectively buy 2000 convertible notes in Waimea Irrigation at $5500 a share, the same share price paid by the scheme subscribers. . . 

The environmental benefits of glysophate – Mark Ross:

Glyphosate, the world’s most widely-used weed management tool has extensive economic and environmental benefits for farmers, especially for those involved with New Zealand’s grains industry.

The benefits of reducing farming’s environmental footprint are immense. Not only do glyphosate-based products successfully control a broad spectrum of weeds, they also help farmers grow crops more sustainably. This is because they allow farmers to adopt ‘conservation tillage’ – benefiting soil health, reducing carbon emissions and conserving water.

There are countless benefits to the land, the farmer and the environment from adopting a no-till system. First and foremost, by leaving the soil mostly undisturbed and leaving high levels of crop residues behind, soil erosion is almost eliminated. . .

LIC spends big on research – Alan Williams:

Dairy genetics group LIC has confirmed innovation at the heart of its work and the spend on research and development this year is more than 5% of revenue.

That is a spend of $13.1 million for the year to next May 31, chairman Murray King told shareholders at the annual meeting in Hamilton.

The New Zealand primary sector’s research and development spend averages about 1%, he said.

The ambitious spend will drive sustainable growth and profitability and deliver more value to farmer shareholders. . . 

Capital gains tax punishes hard work – Lyn Webster:

 I watched Jesse Mulligan on The Project recently saying something like the only people who did not support a capital gains tax were rich selfish people, and I could not help but disagree.

I do not own an investment property, profitable businesses, shares or farms, so a capital gains tax will not necessarily affect me, but I do have an opinion on it.

The premise behind a capital gains tax is that people who work pay tax but people that get income from investing in capital – ie: shares, farms, rental properties etc do not and that this is somehow unfair. . . 

The Farmer’s Fast Five – Pete Greenwood – Claire Inkson:

The Farmers Fast Five : Where we ask a Farmer Five quick Questions about Farming and what Agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Proud Farmer and Amberley A&P show President, Pete Greenwood.

1. How long have you been farming?

 I have been farming since I was 16 years old.

2.What sort of farming were you involved in?

Cropping, horticulture briefly. Now sheep & beef.

3.What makes you Proud to be a Farmer?

 I am proud of what we produce & how we produce it. I am also proud of our position on the world stage. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 16, 2018

Farmers have lost faith in MPI – Annette Scott:

Farmers must not let dairy cattle be taken for slaughter till they are sure they will get compensation, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says.

He wants the Mycoplasma bovis decision-makers to front up as the second round of culling infected herds gets going.

All confidence in compensation promises had been lost, he said.

The Ministry for Primary Industries late last month said a further 22,300 cattle from all infected properties will be killed by the end of May. . . 

Science and technology at every farmers’ fingers tips – Pat Deavoll:

In the three and a half years I have spent as a farming reporter, nothing has struck me more than how hi-tech the industry has become.

Gone are the days when a farmer could step into his father’s shoes and expect to follow the same time-tested methods and be successful.

In this age of uber-production, every sector is based on an application of science, research and technology that is changing at a mind-boggling rate. And farmers are required to change with it. In fact, I read somewhere that by 2025 farmers will need a tertiary qualification to keep up. . .

Lactoferrin – a magic ingredient – Hugh Stringleman:

Lactoferrin became the flavour of the month when Fonterra’s giant New Zealand Milk Products division held an exhibition of its advanced ingredients on the day rival processor Synlait said it will double its production of the pricy protein.

Lactoferrin is an iron-binding milk protein distinguished by its pink crystalline form, produced in small quantities and sold for high prices – perhaps $500/kg or more.

NZMP’s display said it takes 10,000 litres of milk and smart freeze-dry technology to make one kilogram of lactoferrin, which has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and immune-enhancement qualities. . .

Kiwi farmers’ validity at stake – Deborah Rhodes:

As we stare down the barrel of a global consumer revolution we need to be brave to tell them what they want: not what they demand, but what we are going to supply them.

The concept of appealing to every whim of the consumer has driven our farming mentality to that of the oil business: reap now and pay later. Now we are starting to pay as we scramble towards trying to prove in our dairy business that we are different from the rest, and we are — but for how long? . . .

Good – could have done better at Owl Farm – Mark Daniel:

It’s been a challenging season down on the banks of the Waikato River for St Peters School’s Owl Farm.
Tracking behind the previous season, the farm is hoping an extended lactation will help pull things back into line.

Visitors at a farm focus day in late March were told that overall production is down by about 5000kgMS (-3%) and still trending downward.

The farm has more cows (412) than last season (378) but performance per cow has been lower, as has the average yield of 363kgMS versus last year’s 370kgMS in the same period. . . .

As dairy crisis crushes farmers, Wisconsin’s rural identity in jeopardy – Rick Barrett:

Kyle Kurt fought to keep his emotions just below the surface as he talked about selling off his herd of Holstein dairy cows, which he’s milked twice a day, 365 days a year, through good times and bad.

Dairy farming has been Kurt’s livelihood, and his passion, since he graduated from Lodi High School 18 years ago. But come Monday, he’s having an auction to sell his cows, his milking equipment, his tractors and other farm machinery that he’s spent years acquiring.

It’s probably the toughest decision I have ever had to make,” Kurt said, “but I have been told it’s going to be a big weight lifted off my back.”

Scores of Wisconsin farmers are in a similar predicament. And with them, a way of life that has defined much of the state for more than a century and a half is disintegrating. . .


Rural round-up

February 4, 2018

Govt won’t support irrigaiton while farms dry:

The Government is holding back regional New Zealand through its opposition to water storage projects which help grow jobs in the regions, boost exports and provide environmental sustainability National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s description of funding for irrigation projects as ‘unnecessary’ will come as a huge shock to farmers – especially when he supports the construction of the Waimea Dam in his local area. . .

Allbirds shoe business growing as it highlights connection to NZ merino farmers – Gerard Hutching:

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but Allbirds wool shoes founder Tim Brown has had enough of the recognition from some rivals.

Late last year Allbirds filed a trade dress infringement lawsuit in the Northern District of California against shoe giant Steve Madden for allegedly copying its signature wool lace-up sneakers.

Steve Madden is not the only established company venturing into the woollen shoes business. Adidas, Nike and Puma are also using wool in sneakers and clothing, as more consumers seek out natural fibres over synthetic.

It is all good news for New Zealand’s 400 merino farmers who are riding the wave of a boom in demand for the fine fibre. . . 

Nixing nitrate with nanoparticles

Smart catalytic conversion technologies are being used to find better ways of improving the quality of water affected by nitrate pollution.

Dr Anna Garden (Chemistry) is leading a research project that seeks a quicker and safer way of removing nitrate from waterways. Garden says that nitrate pollution of New Zealand’s waterways has become a serious problem over recent decades, due to agricultural intensification and associated overuse of nitrogen-based fertilisers such as ammonium nitrate and urea.

“We are putting so much nitrogen-based fertiliser onto our land these days, as well as increasing the density of stock. . .

Riparian fencing poses challenges – HUgh Stringleman:

Northland dairy farmers Richard and Bev Dampney, farming at Otaua, west of Kaikohe, must urgently complete 10 to 11km of riparian fencing to continue supplying milk to Fonterra.

Within only a few farms nationwide still to comply, the Dampneys had argued riparian fencing was impractical on local rivers that flooded an average of six times a year.

Furthermore, cows had reticulated water in troughs and were effectively excluded from the water courses by steep, overgrown banks.

Hot tapes were used to break feed, and where cows might venture down to the waterways. . . 

Late change for honey standard – Richard Rennie:

The manuka honey industry has welcomed the Government’s last-minute revision of honey standards that, left unchanged, would have sliced millions off the value of the country’s premium honey type.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has made a significant change to the level of a chemical marker that defined manuka honey from multi-floral honey only days before the standards are to be formally enforced on honey producers.

February 5 marks the official launch of the new standards.

The MPI standards were released just before Christmas to an industry outcry at their failure to adequately define manuka honey and the impact they were likely to have on multi-floral honey’s ability to be defined as manuka.  . . 

Death threat vegans bombard award-winning dairy farmers:

Vegans have bombarded an award-winning young dairy farmer, his wife and children with hundreds of chilling death threats.

The American activists blasted Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore with a firestorm of vicious non-stop online abuse for five days.

The mob latched on to the couple, who are in their 30s, after they posted on social media about their new triplet calves.

See also: FW Awards 2017 – Diversification Farmer of the Year winners

The Crickmores, who run Fen Farm Dairy in Bungay, north Suffolk, scooped the Farmers WeeklyDiversification Farmer of the Year Award last year. . . 


Water storage is the green answer to food shortages

January 18, 2018

HorticultureNZ says drought is threatening food supply:

Water is vital for plants and trees to grow and New Zealand needs to better mitigate droughts that threaten our domestic supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“The dry conditions we have seen through early summer are putting fruit and vegetable growers under pressure to the point where some are having to make decisions about which plants and trees they may not be able to plant or harvest, and which may need to be left to die as scarce water supply is used to keep other plants alive,” Chapman says.

“No water means plants die and as a result, fresh fruit and vegetables are unavailable and prices go up because demand is higher than supply.

“Relying on water to fall from the sky simply isn’t enough. HortNZ believes we should be more proactive in capturing and storing that water to ensure sustainability of supply during times of drought.

“The best way to ensure adequate water supply to irrigate fruit and vegetable plants is to store water in dams. Dams also benefit streams and rivers by reducing flood risk and keeping flows up during dry periods, which protects aquatic life.

“There are benefits to every New Zealander from having a reliable water supply. But there are inconsistent policies across central and local government when it comes to water, land use, preparing for climate change goals, and community needs. We believe these should be looked at holistically.

“On the one hand the government wants a  Zero Carbon Act and to plant one billion more trees, but on the other hand, local authorities are increasingly putting pressure on water supplies, limiting water access for irrigation to grow food. There needs to be a wider national approach to these issues and support and recognition for regions that are addressing them as communities.

“For example, Horticulture New Zealand supports the Waimea Dam in the Tasman District and the proposal for it to be a joint venture with the territorial authorities. This is because there are broad community benefits from the dam in an area that is growing in population, and therefore, has a greater need for water supply for people as well as plants.

“The benefits of the dam include water for food security and primary production, security of water supply for urban water users, improved ecosystem health of the Waimea River, recreational benefits, regional economy benefits, business development and expansion, and more jobs.

“The Waimea Dam is the answer to everyone’s water needs in the district.”

Horticulture New Zealand’s submission on the Waimea Dam proposal for governance and funding can be found here

The emotive anti-farming green lobby paints irrigation as bad for the environment but it can be, and often is, good.

Irrigation is like precision rainfall – applied where and when it’s needed.

Storing excess water in times of flood and high river flows to use when there’s not enough rain ticks the economic, environmental and social boxes.

It ensures minimum flows can be maintained to protect water life, it allows plant growth to protect soil from erosion, it provides secure jobs and enables food to be grown during droughts.

Without irrigation farmers and horticulturists are at the mercy of the weather. When it’s dry they produce less food and as the supply drops the price increases which hits the poorest hardest.

There’s irony that many of those opposed to irrigation which enables the growth of fruit and vegetables are often the ones making the most noise about growing obesity.

More irrigation enables the production of food including fruit and vegetables which ought to form the basis of every-day diets. Without irrigation these foods become more expensive leaving the poor no choice but to purchase cheaper, less nutritious and more energy-dense food.

The anti-farming lobby must remove their blinkers and open their minds to the fact that water storage is the green answer to the problems of food shortages, poor diets and soil and water degradation.

 


Rural round-up

November 16, 2017

Irrigation water flows at Sheffield as new scheme starts – Heather Chalmers:

Sheffield arable farmer Damon Summerfield expects to double his production following the arrival of water from the massive Central Plains Water irrigation scheme, writes Heather Chalmers.

If Central Canterbury arable farmer Damon Summerfield is acting like an expectant farmer it’s no surprise. This “baby” has been 10 years in the making.

He’s even talking about a christening which is apt when the “baby” is irrigation water as part of the Central Plains Water community scheme. . .

Farmer vigilance helps keep sheep measles at low ebb:

New Zealand recorded its lowest lamb prevalence level of sheep measles in ten years, says the project manager for Ovis Management Ltd, Dan Lynch.

He says 0.59% of lambs processed in the season ending October were detected with sheep measles versus 0.64% last season.

Lynch believes this low prevalence reflects continuing onfarm control being exerted by farmers across NZ. “This is a great outcome.” . . .

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman James Parsons not seeking re-election:

James Parsons, Chairman of Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), announced today he will not be seeking re-election in the organisation’s director elections in March.

Mr Parsons, who farms a 478-hectare hill country farm in Tangowahine, Northland, has served as the Northern North Island Director on the B+LNZ Board for nine years, including four as Chairman.

“Although I am still very energised as the organisation’s Chairman, another three-year term would mean 12 years on the board and seven years as Chairman,” says Mr Parsons. . .

Beef + Lamb New Zealand invites director nominations and remits/resolutions for Annual Meeting:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) today announced nominations have opened for two B+LNZ director roles and one position on its Directors’ Independent Remuneration Committee (DIRC).

Under the requirements of the B+LNZ constitution, two electoral district directors and one existing DIRC member retire by rotation at the annual meeting.

This year, directors Phil Smith (Northern South Island), and James Parsons (Northern North Island), and DIRC member Derrick Millton will be those retiring by rotation. They are permitted to seek re-election. Mr Parsons announced this week he will not be seeking re-election as a director. . .

Rabo NZ chief Daryl Johnson resigns after less than two years in the job – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Daryl Johnson has resigned, less than two years after taking over the reins of the rural lending specialist.

Johnson’s resignation will take effect on Dec. 22, and Rabobank NZ has commenced a process to appoint a new chief executive officer, chair Henry van der Heyden said in a statement to the NZX. Johnson joined the bank in July last year, having previously led National Australia Bank’s Asia business. . . .

Water scientist hits back at claims around Waimea dam plan – Cherie Sivgnon:

The Waimea River, near Nelson, will be dry most summers if more water is pumped from the aquifers under the plains without augmentation, according to Landcare Research water scientist Andrew Fenemor.

If minimum flows in the river were to be maintained and seawater intrusion avoided, there needed to be limits on water taken from the aquifers, he said.

Fenemor is a former Tasman District Council environmental manager and a member of the newly formed Community Water Solutions Advisory Group, set up to advise the council and its proposed joint-venture partner in the $82.5 million dam project, Waimea Irrigators Ltd. . . 

Canterbury A&P Show: ‘Amazing’ weather and crowds for day one – Oliver Lewis:

Bryce Black has been described as the “chief stirrer” and “ring entertainer” during his long tenure at the Canterbury A&P Show.

The 87-year-old has almost never missed a show and has presided over the movement of horses into the ring for the past 70 years.

On Wednesday, the opening day of the 155th event, the Tai Tapu local was in his caravan right on the edge of the Main Arena. . . .

There’s more farmland in the world than was previously thought – Megan Durisin:

There’s more agricultural land in the world than previously thought, and India rather than the U.S. or China is now believed to have the biggest acreage of any country, according to new study aimed at improving food and water security.

Global cropland totals 1.87 billion hectares (4.62 billion acres), 15 percent to 20 percent higher than earlier estimates, according to a map released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey. The increase is due to the assessment of areas previously mapped inaccurately, or left unmapped, the USGS said in a statement. . .

 


Rural round-up

November 3, 2017

The big dry – Waimea Water:

The 2001 drought was the most severe drought our region experienced in 60 years. Different phrases were used to describe it, including a shortage or a crisis. Early on it was ‘water fears.’ In the end, the drought stuck and it became known as the ‘Big Dry’ and it affected everyone in the region from Nelson to Richmond to Motueka to Golden Bay.

Riverbeds dried up. Saltwater threatened the bores in the lower Waimea River. Stories about the scarcity of rain appeared almost daily in newspapers. Councils met to assess the water supply risks and the rationing requirements. Green pastures were brown with no grass in sight. Dairy farm stock had to be dried off months early, with cattle and sheep sold below cost to cover lost revenue. Permitted users, including irrigators across the Waimea Plains, had been reduced to 40 percent of their allowed take.  . .

No Waimea dam: I’m out, says long-time market gardener Mark O’Connor – Cherie Sivignon:

For four generations, Mark O’Connor’s family have been on the Waimea Plains. For the past three, they’ve been growing vegetables.

But the Appleby Fresh managing director says if there’s no Waimea dam, he will consider subdividing some of the land and selling up.

“We actually had a meeting the other day and said what are we going to do if we don’t get the dam and I said: ‘I’m out of it; it’s too hard to farm without having water’,” he said. . . 

Fonterra to invest $100m in Australia after hitting full milk processing capacityFonterra sees Aus opportunities – Gerard Hutching:

Fonterra has unveiled plans to invest $100 million immediately into its Australian business in a major expansion plan.

It is also looking into the possibility of its Australian operation becoming a co-operative.

Chief executive Theo Spierings told the co-operative’s annual general meeting in Hawera on Thursday that Fonterra’s reputation had climbed from 9th to 5th in the RepZ survey and had “changed the minds of 1.5 million New Zealanders.” . . 

We’ve got the bull by the udder – John King:

Here’s a quiz for morning smoko. According to modern grazing practice, where’s best on the curve in the illustration for the following:

  • · Maximum livestock growth?
  • · Maximum pasture longevity?
  • · Maximum soil development and structure?

Many farmers and all agricultural professionals will know where’s best for growing livestock, a few less will know where’s best for pasture longevity, and most wouldn’t even consider where’s best for soil, let alone there might be two places. That’s due to the prevailing culture and training railroading what we believe is normal – focusing on single goals.John King

Farmer Fast Five – Richard Power – Claire Inkson:

The Farmers Fast Five : Where we ask a farmer five quick questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Hawarden Proud Farmer Richard Power, who with his wife Mez, won the Romney section of this years Ewe Hogget Competition.

How long have you been farmer?

I am a third generation farmer.  I was bought up on our stud sheep and beef farm where from a young age was taught how to handle and judge stock.  After a stint at Lincoln I went lamb drafting for 5 years.  Travelling around so many different farms gave me a great insight into different breeds and ways of farming.  I carried on drafting for another 3 years after taking on the home farm with my wife in 1990 and changing to a commercial operation.

What sort of Farming are you involved in?

We are involved in a traditional dryland sheep/beef and crop operation, concentrating on early lamb production. All our lambs are gone by Christmas, and what doesn’t go prime is sold store.  On a normal season the split would be 80% sheep and the beef/crop sharing 10% each.  Beef cattle of any type are traded from Autumn to Spring and Barley is grown for a local farmer. . . 

Major deer shed upgrade underway:

Most deer farmers are upgrading their deer sheds so that velvet is harvested, handled, stored and transported in a clean environment.John Tacon, quality assurance manager for Deer Industry NZ (DINZ), says the regulatory bottom line is that all sheds must have a “clean zone” – a designated area where velvet antler is removed, handled and frozen. In this zone, all contact surfaces must be washable and clean prior to velvet removal and handling. 

“As soon as practicable after harvesting, but within 2 hours, velvet also needs to be placed in a velvet-only freezer capable of freezing to at least minus 15 deg C.” 

At some time in the future he expects standards could well be “ramped up, but it’s a good starting point”. . . 

Autumn – Ben Eagle:

 Today I began the first of what will be many bramble bashing (or should that be obliterating) sessions throughout the autumn/winter as I try to get on top of the scrub encroaching on some of the farm’s stewardship plots. The sky seemed to be missing today, a great grey and white canvas only intermittently marked by the odd passing pheasant or pigeon, the former unable to get much lift to make sufficient impact upon the bleak sky as I looked upward and across. Pheasants annoy me, with their loud cackling call, their pompous plumage and their inability to fly properly, but I know I shouldn’t hold it against them. As I write this post now I hear them outside. Something has spooked them and they are calling out, confused and terrified of the world. Who can blame them I suppose when you primary reason for existing so far as human kind is concerned is to be shot. . . 


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