Annie, my wife. doesn‘t trust cow‘s milk. what with all the publicity about hormones. Instead she prefers organic goat‘s milk. lean cope with that. but I still like A REAL PINTA. It‘s what I was brought up on.
Dumfriesshire is good dairy country. and cows make gentle neighbours. I bid them a daily good morning. though I‘m a little more wary of the beefy bullocks who loiter at the garden gate. The sheep are more anonymous in their crowd. but I sympathise with the ewes. raggy-fleeced and mucky-arsed. and pestered by too many lambs. They have to work hard.
So does the farmer. and so do I. Electioneering has turned our little home into an office. so Annie has taken a holiday. I have reverted to my REAL PINTA and neglected the housework. as workaholics do.
It‘s all leading up to 18 June. The 150th Highland Show gets under way at lngliston. and the votes are counted in the third European Elections. Farming is top priority in both contexts.
The Royal Highland used to be a moveable feast. a touring banner that allowed region to entertain region. In 1960 it moved to Ingliston. and centralised. Many would say agriculture has followed a similar path under the EEC.
David Goldie. a former Show Chairman who farms down this way explained: ‘The Show ran into funding problems. It relies heavily now on sponsorship and revenue from the trade stands. but has grown much bigger as a result. We try to show people what farming is about. The Show also tries to reflect all aspects of the rural economy and our craft show is in its third year. We hope that there is something for everybody.‘
There certainly is lots going on at the Show. lfyou get fed up staring at the beady-eyed bulls. magnificently masculine in their show gear. or a little goggle-eyed at the £2000-a-pair gonads unashamedly on display. you can take in the champion of champions sheepdog trials. the . farming skills exhibition. the ‘ Highland dancing or even make a personal judgement on the cake exhibits. There‘s a ‘Living Heritage‘ exhibition this year. illustrating the UK‘s agricultural history and including exhibits ofunusual and rare animals.
Talking ofunusual animals. I don‘t suppose there will be a cow the size of an elephant on show. capable of producing 45.000 lbs of milk a year.
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On the eve of the 150th Royal Highland Show, Paul
Thomas considers current trends in Scottish farming and the implications for those of us who enjoy a good, honest REAL PINTA.
That‘s what the genetic wizards are busy trying to create. But ifyou look hard enough at the trade stands. you may be able to find some information on the subject. As well as retaining its strong agricultural base. with market and livestock competitions. the show has also become a commercial Mecca for the agricultural industries. The chemical companies will be there en masse. as will the drug manufacturers. Their presence will dwarf the organic contingent. although the Show organisers encourage a ‘conservationist‘ clement. Like Goliath preparing to meet David. the multinational drug companies are confident ofvictory. but David is winning some powerful allies.
As far as the REAL l’lN’I‘A goes. companies like Monsanto and Eli-Lilley are doing a very effective
hard sell of the new wonder drug BST. By regularly injecting cows with this hormone. they claim. the dairy farmer can increase his milk yield by 20 per cent. thus reducing herd size by a similar amount. This is bad news for the smaller farmer. and it may lead to more amalgamation of farms. Bad news for the baby human too. which is sort of where we came in. The latest research into 851‘ shows that it produces a higher level of bovine insulin in cow‘s milk. Nasty for babies.
And what about the cow'.’ BST means GBH from her point ofview. Arthritis. lameness and exhaustion can result. The Scottish farmer and the Scottish Milk Marketing Board both strongly oppose BST. and are siding with David.
These are the trends which threaten to revolutionise dairy
farming. The problem is. none of us have any way of knowing whether our REAL PINTA contains BST. The farmer has to keep up with the market.
At the Highland Show. farmers exhibit their best livestock with justifiable pride. for theirs is a hard life. Most livestock categories have their competitions. but the pig section has been dropped.
David Goldie explains why: ‘There aren‘t too many pig breeders in Scotland. and we found that more and more pig breeders from England were competing. It‘s a much more intensive industry in England. and Scottish Farmers are proud of their Pig Health Scheme. Rather than compromise our standards. we decided to drop the category.‘
Charlie Wannop is an organic adviser who farms at Biggar. Did he think the livestock on show was representative of Scottish livestock in general? ‘In about the same way that the Scottish Athletic Championships reﬂect Scottish health and fitness. I suppose‘. he answered.
And I suppose that sums it up. From the farmer‘s point ofview as from the public‘s. it‘s a chance to see the cream on the top of the pint. The Scottish Farmer does a good. conscientious job in difficult economic circumstances. and deserves reward for grooming his prize bull. or his statuesque Galloway Tup. But the visitor should be aware that for every prize animal . on show there are thousands of tattered and tired beasts in the field. and that for the farmer enjoying his special day. it really is that. for the pressures upon him are great.
As for the cream on the top of my REAL PINTA. it still tastes good in my workaholic‘s coffee (Nicaraguan ofcourse). but ifyou take a good look around the trade stands. you might find out what could be swimming in the thinner milk beneath.
Now. did Annie leave any of her goat‘s milk in the fridge?
Paul Thomas is a representative ofthe Scottish Green Party. currently working as European Election Agent for the South of Scotland , and
Con venor of the Agricultural Working Group.
The Royal Highland Show at lngliston Showground, near Edinburgh, Sun l8—Wed2] June. See Open Listings, Outdoors, for full details.
is The List 16— 29 June 1989