The farming column with Sam Walton

My two granddaughters Phoebe (left) and Sophie at Bishop Burtons Open Lambing Day.
My two granddaughters Phoebe (left) and Sophie at Bishop Burtons Open Lambing Day.

I have been thinking (and that can be dangerous) about farming and the future and the way in which farming has gone.

Small farms are being gobbled up and are no longer sustainable unless you have an intensive enterprise or some other entrepreneurial business, maybe not even associated with providing food, which farming used to be about.

Ewes and lambs were on show during the lambing day event.

Ewes and lambs were on show during the lambing day event.

In Yorkshire we are lucky to have two of the leading Agricultural Colleges, Askham Bryan and Bishop Burton.

When they opened, Askham Bryan just after the war, which I attended in 1952/3, yes I really am that old, and Bishop around 1964, there was only one aim and that was either to teach students the rudiments of agriculture or horticulture and if you passed you received a National Certificate of Agriculture.

I suppose what it all meant was that it was all practical, hands-on, we were trained how to milk a cow, lamb a ewe, farrow a sow, how a crop was grown and why we would grow such a crop and why we needed a rotation.

Casting my mind back I think being a student then taught me to think and to live with other people.

That I still think, there is no doubt. What conclusions I come to there is doubt about.

The whole agricultural scene has changed so much that I doubt if any practical skills are now top of the league, as we now need to know about soil types, pests, diseases, financial budgets, planning forward and of course my favourite subject, RED TAPE!

We never used to plan a pig business for numbers of pigs per sow, numbers of litters per sow, feed conversions, ventilation was never a problem in the old brick buildings, there was no thought about litres of milk per cow, or lambing percentages, the various animals would be singled out perhaps as not a bad milker, a ewe might have had twins or a sow might have had 10 piglets born but would probably lie on a couple. More about this next time.