The Countryside About Us August 1999

posted 2 Aug 2019, 06:31 by Chris Hoare
Even the most “non agriculturist” who chooses to live in our part of the world cannot fail to notice quite large fields, some with wide headlands which appear to have nothing much growing on them except a variety of weeds. Their unkempt appearance stands out rather amongst the acres of well ordered, wall to wall, oil seed rape, wheat, sugar beet and so on. The barren land decreed by our EU masters in Brussels is commonly designated as “set aside”. That is to say, a farmer, if he wishes to benefit from EU subsidies, must remove from his arable acres at least 10% of the land which would normally produce an arable crop. This arrangement is to help prevent big surpluses of these commodities. The “set aside” policy is due to continue into the foreseeable future. However, rather than leave the land totally bare, I understand “industrial” oil seed rape can be grown. The oil seed thus produced would be crushed as usual but utilised for industrial lubricants etc. rather than in cooking oils or “spreads”. Uncropped set aside land does provide a refuge for our beleaguered wild life.

Changes in agriculture are also happening quite dramatically in the livestock sector. The first calves have been born in this country which had their gender determined at conception! Three cows were inseminated with the certainty that each would produce a heifer calf. It will, of course, be some time before the technique will be common place. One of the main benefits will be to reduce the number of unwanted and worthless bull calves from the dairy herd.

It is almost with some relief that I can revert back to writing about more understandable things. The every day mallard, will I predict, never be an endangered species! Their ingenuity ensures they prosper. In a garden in Earl Soham Street, a mallard has reared amongst the garden’s vegetation 12 ducklings! As with any species that produces excessive numbers of young, high mortality can be expected. Now, although down to 5 youngsters, she comes and goes at will. Soon I expect they will all leave this refuge in The Old Stores garden. They may even join another family of ducks I spotted cruising along on the small river Ken. A delightful flotilla of 12 ducklings, proceeding in an orderly fashion, line astern. Sadly I expect some will fall foul of a predator. The grey heron that frequents that stretch of the river is a likely suspect.

Roger Sykes