Children back to school on Thursday in many parts of the country so the sun came out and I spent the day in the sunshine standing in a field surrounded by dairy cows inquisitively looking at me while I, in turn, nonchalantly looked out across a Norfolk landscape. I had been asked to “star” in a photo shoot and interview for the NFU’s Countryside magazine, which brought me face to face with Holstein calves, cows and a magnificent, huge and, sometimes frightening, three year old bull. The cows were completely unfazed by our presence and equipment; many of them were lying down and lazing in their stall on sand - which I learned helps to keep them cool – while others were scratching their backs with a brush fixed at just the right height – it was idyllic, and I’m so glad that it wasn't raining or things might not have turned out quite so well!
My morning on the farm was to do with our upcoming return to the Great Milk Debate. In 2007, Federations held Great Milk Debates where not only members but the general public were invited to question dairy farmers, processors and retailers in a bid to raise the price that dairy farmers actually receive per litre of milk. The sharing out of pennies for that litre was not quite 'fair', and the WI had the mandate to raise awareness of the low prices dairy farmers were receiving for their milk. At the time, this did change in part but in the ensuing years, the margins are unfortunately slipping back, so along with many members, I felt it was imperative to raise this issue once again and stand behind our back dairy farmers.
Our recent campaign on county of origin labelling – COOL – comes naturally into this debate too, and imported milk, labelled or otherwise, is not, hopefully, the way our milk should go.
Concentrating on milk once again always reminds me of my very early childhood and my great aunts hand milking their small herd of cows, then taking it in churns on their milk cart, pulled by Dolly, around their village. People would come out of their houses with their jugs to be filled with fresh milk. It is always amazing to see how times change and how technology is changing our world.