In Top Gear with an unlikely champion

Unlike new farmer Jeremy Clarkson, everything is going just fine for Andrew Steven.

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Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson has struck gold with his show about his farm and is an unlikely champion for farming.

Unlike new farmer Jeremy Clarkson, everything is going just fine for Andrew Steven.

Have you watched Clarksons’ Farm?  Most likely you  have heard about it. I was never a fan of Top Gear. I read one commentator who described Clarkson as a professional pillock. 

Whatever. His show about the day-to-day running of his farm is very good viewing  and the cast of real-life characters are quite compelling. I liked the episode where he reported his yearly profit of £144 ($NZ272) from a 400-hectare farm. Further, he has become an unlikely champion for farming, a breath of fresh air.

On our farm , everything is going just fine. 

Our stock numbers are down, so we have ample feed. In fact we have long grass. This is not ideal for ewes and lambs, with the ewes being fat and the lambs mediocre. Looking over the fences, everybody else’s lambs look better than mine and on quite short pasture. 

The problem with short grass is that you are always on the brink of drought. With our year to date rainfall at 365mm  [Nov 10] , we could do with a top up. 

Our long grass is being consumed by yearling  cattle. They are the calves we raised last year and were unable to sell at an acceptable price in the dry autumn. That meant we had to destock ewes instead. So now we are looking to get value from these cattle.

They have got so strong that they can force their way through a brand new deer fence. 

Long grass means we have an opportunity to be  putting some regenerative ideas into practice. Except I can’t be bothered with shifting fences too often. 

The grazing management required to grow young deer is essentially regenerative; i.e. take half of what is on offer.  Our yearling deer have come up to weight very well and this is mostly due to the incredible genetic gains in deer growth rates. 

It doesn’t seem many years ago that in order to kill a hind, she would be a rising two-year-old and even then only kill out about 52kg. Now we can kill rising one-year-old females at better weights.

While the genetics have greatly improved, their ability to cause annoyance has not diminished. They have got so strong that they can force their way through a brand new deer fence. If their head gets through, they can get the rest of their body through.

By the time you read this, the November Ground Swell protest will have taken place and the commentators  will have made their pronouncements. Most likely they will portray an account that suits their own story.

While I empathise with the sense of frustration, I will not be attending the protest.  The threat for farming from this action is that the story can be so easily screwed against us. You simply graft some new prejudice on to some old ones. You know; farmers getting rich by polluting rivers and cooking the climate. The final dismissal is to invoke the phrase, “just a bunch of rednecks”

If you are feeling frustrated, angry, undervalued, you are not  alone, but does anybody care ?

The alternative outcome from the November 21 action is that it could be a much bigger deal than just farming concerns. There is a vacuum where the opposition ought to be and lots of annoyed people. Of course, where there is a vacuum, watch out for leadership coming from unlikely places to fill the space.