Maple Field Milk: Full-Tilt Farming

Reader Contribution by Nick Snelgar
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Both my colleague, Rupert, who is training alongside me, and me passed our Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Certificate. Another move forwards. The Environmental Health Officer from the New Forest District Council came to collect samples of all the products we intend to sell from the dairy on Tuesday morning. He plunged them in a cool box, tagged them with secret ‘links,’ and carried them to Public Health England at Porton Down for a run of tests to confirm our own tests. It’s ok — it’s all for our safety. We shall know the results next Tuesday.

We have made haylage in Springmeadow field (6 acres) just one field up from Maple Field. It is actually two 3-acre fields divided by a thick mass of enclosure act hedge all packed with the old favourites – traveller’s joy, ash, dogwood in three varieties, wild furnaces of blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), field maple climbed by tenacious’ Chris Bonnington’ honeysuckle. In came Gerald and Neil, the contractors from 2 valleys over.

On Friday, when the sun was promised for a few days  by the Azores High, they inched into the small fields with their massive tractors. They cut the grass and ‘tedded’ it in an hour and left. The sun poured down all day at 30 degrees C. On Saturday at 9am, they came back with a “tedder” and a baler. By noon, the field was windrowed; baled into half-ton square bales and double-wrapped in black polythene ‘to go.’ We experienced  FULL-TILT FARMING.’

Isn’t it great that the small-holder can benefit from the top end of technology and have his winter feed for 5 cows stacked in a corner with no rain on it? No shed needed to put it in. No grunting .There it is: a high-quality winter feed in a bag ready for November. The 6 acres yielded 66 large square bales. That’s 11 big bales to the acre or (in old money) that is 10 small bales to every big bale or 110 small bales to the acre. I have heard that 40 bales of hay to the acre is good going. Anyway, we need 44 big bales to last a 22-week winter for 5 dairy cows and a few calves…….

Secretary of State Paterson told us the other day on the farming programme that Britain suffers a deficit of 1.3 billion dairy shekels. We import a fantastic amount of fresh milk, which of course is hardly ‘fresh’ if it comes  from Ireland or Poland or France. Never mind — there is massive scope for us ‘new starts.’ No, not ‘upstarts!’

I walked through a lace-like veil of scent this morning on my way to the  milking bail. It came from Rosa Canina rambling through an ash tree by the gate . The plaintiff beauty of a wild rose. It’s a rose that came over with the Romans. A seed must have lodged in a  toga or the mucky little sandal of a legionnaire.

Photo by Fotolia/lucato

Nick Snelgar writes about his ongoing experiences starting a small dairy, Maple Field Milk, in Great Britain.