News from the farm gate by Milly Wastie, R.A.B.I

Regional Manager for R.A.B.I Milly WastieThis year has just flown by. However for some farmers I’m sure they will be thankful to see the back of 2014, especially those affected by the flooding on the Somerset levels. I’m proud to say that some of my colleagues were at the forefront of the rescue operation and as a charity R.A.B.I. gave over £75,000 in flood related payments. Sadly many farmers and country folk alike are still not back in their homes and the quality of the land is still very poor. There is no other industry that comes together during a crisis like Agriculture and it was overwhelming to see how everyone clubbed together with donations of cash, animal feed and bedding.

Thankfully the warm Summer weather has helped with a bountiful harvest and for this year I didn’t hear tales of combine harvesters sinking in the corners of fields; instead a more content hum from those who had had a quick turn around and completed their 2015 crop cultivation work before the cold weather sets in.

Commodity prices continue to be an issue and something has got to give to ensure that there is a fair balance between the retailers, processors and farmer. We are very fortunate that we can produce food in this country and not have to solely rely on cheap imports. But if we don’t support our own UK farmers, we will have to compromise on factors such as quality, animal welfare standards and traceability. With an ever growing population and the effects of climate change, food production is going to become much more important to us all.

Recently I travelled over to Brisbane, Australia to attend a two-week farm conference and tour organised by the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth. I had a unique insight into farming techniques across rural Queensland and whilst they have similar challenges to us, the biggest issue is water storage and irrigation; and of course the vast areas of land they have to cover.

Beef production is big business. I visited one of the feed lots on the outskirts of Brisbane which accommodated 34,000 head of cattle! The Australians have developed a breed called the Brangus that can cope with the hot climate. A mixture of the Aberdeen Angus, bred for meat with a Brahman, which is more typically seen in drought stricken African countries. And whilst the numbers are vast, the cattle seemed content and the system seemed to be more profitable and manageable than a grass based system. I’m not sure the UK is ready for anything similar yet, especially when we don’t have the luxury of spare land; however it was interesting to see how large scale operations have a place in society and how beef could be produced efficiently.

Regional Manager for R.A.B.I Milly Wastie
More closer to home now, I recently attended an award ceremony in London as I was nominated for an Inspirational Women award for my commitments to the charity sector and my Agricultural advocacy work. It was nice to be able to ditch the wellies and overalls and get glammed up for the evening. I can’t tell you how proud I am to declare that I won an award which now takes pride of place on my mantel piece. It’s very rewarding to know that all the hard work and long hours are helping to inspire others and make a difference.

I’m going to sign off now and put my feet up. The fire is lit, the fairy lights are up and I’ve made my last mince pie – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! And when you sit down to eat your Christmas dinner, don’t forget to thank a farmer for the hard work in producing such a delicious meal.

To get in touch with Milly Wastie, Tel: 07525 323450, email: milly.wastie@rabi.org.uk or follow on twitter @millywastie

The R.A.B.I. confidential helpline number is: 0300 3037373

The next R.A.B.I. event is a charity quiz evening on Friday 13th March 2015, 7pm at Kirkby Mallory. For more information contact Veronica Sutton on: 01455 293452

Image: Regional Manager for R.A.B.I Milly Wastie

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