The farming column with Sam Walton

If you are observant you will be able to spot when something is wrong with your animals.
If you are observant you will be able to spot when something is wrong with your animals.

It is quite funny how you remember things people have said over the years. I had an uncle who was a hill farmer at Alston in Cumbria who had various old sayings.

He lived to be 96 and was actively farming until he was 93.

Almost 50 years ago I went to stay with him for a few days as he was a fascinating chap and one morning we were setting off to walk up the fells to check on the sheep.

Something quite unusual in that part of the country, there was a clear blue sky, not a cloud in sight and there he was wrapping up his oilskin overcoat in a roll round his neck – so I asked him why he wanted a raincoat. His reply in his local dialect was, “when it is fine tak a cooat, when it is raining please theesen”!

A week ago I was pulling wild oats, yes those things again and we had had several days of fine weather and things looked fairly settled.

As the day rolled on an odd cloud or two appeared and they didn’t really look as if they had any rain in them.

How wrong can you be? In a matter of minutes it started to spot with rain and then a deluge. I was drenched and my shoes filled with water from the wet crop.

As I squelched my way home from the furthest field I smiled to myself and remembered his words.

There have been many other examples which come back to me every now and then and I remember when at Askham Bryan Institute of Agriculture as it was in the early fifties, I was leaning on a gate looking at some cattle in a yard when the principal walked up and asked what are you doing Walton lad?

I replied just watching how the cattle are behaving.

That’s right lad, always use your powers of observation.

Those words have stood me in good stead as I can often sense when something is wrong. I have many a time been able to point out to someone such a thing as any animal in discomfort will show it in some way.