By Jane Le Cocq, farm conservation advisor, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority:
DURING the past week or so the first ‘Northern Real Farming Conference’ has taken place, with a particular focus on the northern uplands.
I decided to take a peak and see if I and, more importantly, my ancient IT equipment could manage to take part. I do not usually use social media and normally prefer a face-to-face situation. However, in these strange Covid-19 times I didn’t have much choice.
The amount of sessions available and the topics they covered was very impressive and extremely interesting. They ranged from new ways of paying farmers for providing environmental and public goods to ‘cow-with-calf’ dairying, which is something I am passionate about.
A long time ago we milked cows on Alderney in the Channel Islands, hence my surname. I loved it but the one thing I absolutely hated was taking the calves away from their mothers. It was so stressful and horrible and, as a new mum myself, it really affected me. I persuaded my husband to keep the calves somewhere that the mothers could still come up and see and lick them.
I’m sure most people don’t realise the calf-mother separation aspect of dairying and I have always thought this would be a great selling point for people who wanted to buy more welfare-friendly milk and now it seems it is happening.
There was a good attendance at the virtual conference, but predictably the attendees were mostly from conservation organisations. This is not particularly a bad thing, but I think the aim was to attract a good number of farmers to take part in the discussions. Maybe it was just that farmers did not know about it or were uncertain of how to take part.
As the pandemic restrictions seem to be here for the long haul, society will have to make sure that non- or slightly-IT literate people still have access to everything they should have access to. I don’t have the answers for this, but maybe this is something local councils, family members and friends will have to address?