We changed our Veterinary Practice for the cattle this week, for the first time since about 1938, when my Great Grandparents moved to the area.
Since then, there’s been a World War, generations lost and new ones born, tenancies ended, a change of farms, multiple crisis’ weathered, like BSE and Foot-and-Mouth, new breeds and bloodlines added, and new directions taken, but through it all, our Vets have stayed the same.
Like too many other practices around the country, which began around the Herriot era with farming at their core, there’s no longer enough farms on their books to make it viable to carry on with that side of the business. It must have been a heart-breaking decision to have to make. There simply aren’t enough livestock farms anymore to sustain the Large Animal side of every vet practice, the focus has shifted to Small Animals and Horses. With every livestock farm that folds, or changes to solely arable, there’s less work for Farm Vets.
IS THERE REALLY LESS LIVESTOCK?
The media and other influential voices seem to be constantly advocating for a reduction in livestock numbers to help halt Climate Change, but the point they seem to miss (well, one of the many…) is, numbers have already dwindled to a shadow of their former self, here in the UK.
Curious about the figures behind the headlines, I did a bit of reading up on the subject- the reality stunned me… Compared to 1974, there are around 35% less cattle on UK farms. In just the last 20 years (’98 to ’18), breeding cattle have reduced by over 1 million (23%), breeding sheep numbers have fallen by over 6 million (a fall of 31%), with breeding pig numbers also falling by nearly 40% in that time. That’s around a quarter less breeding animals overall, and yet, the area of permanent grassland on our island has increased since 1970, meaning less livestock on more land area.
Looking at the statistics, it’s clear to see why the Agricultural Workforce has reduced so much since my great-grandparents’ years, and why the connected industries, like the Vets, who are a vital part of a livestock farm, are struggling to keep going. Production might have increased in that time, with breeding advances meaning more produced from less animals, but the Golden Era of livestock on almost every farm has long gone, lost to history, as every disease outbreak and price crash wiped more away.
I just think it’s so incredibly sad, and such a loss; in our Village alone, where there was once at least 4 mixed farms, we are now the only one who still has our own livestock.
But everything changes over time- it’s the only thing you can always count on. I’m sure future generations will one day look back and see how different things are again, and who knows, in 80 years time, maybe we’ll still be with this next Vet Practice.
The times might have passed, but the memories and connections still remain. I shared an old photo of my Granny on my blog’s social media accounts a bit ago, and with this final tie to the past coming to an end (well, they’ll still be our Vets for the pets, just not the livestock), I’d like to end this with another trip down memory lane. Back to the time when, one of the original partners at our Vets, taught her how to inject a cow- a handy skill to have when she later went to Agricultural College…
FARMING DAYS OF OLD
Heavy horses were still a vital part of a farm, despite the introduction of tractors. We think this is Bonny and Bess, with my Great Grandfather and some workers, teachers, who would come and help out each Summer.
My Granny on the Binder, alongside her Brother, Mother and Sister. The Binder cut the standing crop and bound it into bundles.
TOWING THE BINDER
My Granny’s Father and her Brother, towing the Binder with their Fordson tractor at Harvest Time.
“Change is the only constant in life.”– Heraclitus