After two weeks of an agriculture course with the SRUC, the flow of my blog output has dried up to a slow trickle as I try and get my head around a tremendous amount of new information.
Over the past few days, I’ve been totally absorbed by lectures on pneumatic seed drills, liver fluke and beef conformation, not to mention a great deal on grass species. Perhaps most satisfyingly, I enjoyed a detailed lecture in which a compelling argument was made to demonstrate that British beef is the best in the world, and I was gripped by the story of traditional plucky British breeds fighting out against lumbering, oafish Continentals. Alongside the classroom modules, there has been a chance to get out and manhandle the hideous beltex tups, weigh holstein calves and take soil samples for testing – a terrific way to spend some lovely autumn days of sunshine and bright morning fog.
The huge amount of detail being flung around was initially rather overwhelming, but I’m getting the idea now that much of the information is best absorbed passively. The thrust of the message I have taken is that farming, like gamekeeping, requires a certain mindset and a basic grasp of some simple principles. Once this foundation is established, it becomes possible to tackle most challenges in a steady, logical fashion. Agriculture really doesn’t seem to be a dark or magical art, but things fit together in certain ways which are not always immediately apparent to the uninitiated, and getting used to thinking differently should help as I start to pick up some all-important experience. I was extremely smug to have asked a question about cows’ feet of my lecturer that he could not answer, and my second pass through higher education is proving to be even more interesting than my first.
I still don’t intend to drop my life and run into agriculture- in fact, much of what I’ve learned so far is wholly irrelevant to my interests in traditional upland farming, but the wider context of the industry is utterly fascinating. Quite apart from the technicalities of producing food, really understanding how priorities differ when it comes to land use has been a phenomenal eye-opener and will become a blog article of its own in due course.
But to demonstrate that all is proceeding according to the original plan, my wife and I had an excellent evening with the galloways on Sunday, picking out the two calves we plan to buy later in the year. The deal was done, hands were shaken and we look forward to taking on a couple of extremely pretty riggit heifer calves around Christmas time – the start of a major new beef dynasty in the Galloway hills?