BYGONE DAYS: NFU issues warning on decline in British dairy herds

A warning on the serious effect on future milk production of the substantial decline in dairy herds and on the continued declining trend of acreages of vegetables was issued during this week in 1951 by the National Farmers’ Union after publication by the Ministry of Agriculture of the returns for June.

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 11:00 am
Catching up at the Desertmartin Parish Church’s 25th annual garden fete and vintage rally in August 2010 are James White and Brendan McErlean. Picture: Simon Robinson/Mid Ulster Mail archives
Catching up at the Desertmartin Parish Church’s 25th annual garden fete and vintage rally in August 2010 are James White and Brendan McErlean. Picture: Simon Robinson/Mid Ulster Mail archives

“The fall of more than 110,000 animals in herds,” the NFU stated, ‘‘can partly be attributed to the disincentive effect of recent price decisions. Substantial decline in the numbers of calves, particularly female calves, is certainly most disconcerting for the future of milk and beef production.

“The bad winter had a noticeable effect on the rate of expansion in sheep numbers.

“The satisfactory increase in the pig population is bound to make heavier calls on the available supplies of feeding stuffs.”

Sammy Yearl aboard one of the many vintage tractors on show at the Desertmartin Parish Church’s 25th annual garden fete and vintage rally in August 2010. Picture: Simon Robinson/Mid Ulster Mail archives

The NFU added: “Farmers are to be congratulated on the fact that the decline in the wheat acreage, serious though it is, is not as great as earlier forecast had hinted.”

SHEEP-WORRYING IN ULSTER

“Ulster farmers who keep sheep will, doubtless, keep an interested eye on the proceedings of the committee which, with the Lord Chief Justice of England as chairman, was appointed to investigate anomalies in the laws governing civil liability for damage by animals,” noted the Roamer during this week in 1951.

They added: “One of the matters to be discussed is the worrying of sheep by dogs. Some farmers in one case in England joined in offering a reward of £100 for the capture, dead or alive, of two dogs that were suspected of having killed sheep.

Canon Kenneth Kingston, Desertmartin Parish Church Rector, with Sean Henry, Magherafelt Council good relations officer, who officially opened the parish church’s 25th annual garden fete and vintage rally in August 2010. Picture: Simon Robinson/Mid Ulster Mail archives

“Mr Williams, British Minister of Agriculture, stated recently that approximately 6,000 sheep in England were killed by dogs and the loss of meat was equivalent to about a million weekly rations.

“Owners of sheep in Ulster who also complain of that having to shoot the dogs concerned may lead to litigation and ill will on the part of owners and that it is difficult to track the animals to their kennels.

“Other laws to be examined by the investigating committee are those relating to liability for cattle which, allowed to stray on the roads, cause accidents and injuries to cyclists and others.”

NO POTATO SHORTAGE EXPECTED

Pictured at Desertmartin Parish Church’s 25th annual garden fete and vintage rally in August 2010 are Raymond Benton, Keith and Victor Muldoon. Picture: Simon Robinson/Mid Ulster Mail archives

The Roamer also reflected on the state of the potato crops in Northern Ireland compared to those across the water in England.

They wrote: “Though potatoes are being unofficially rationed in London, probably a result of a report that the Lincolnshire crop is very light this year, I hear that Ulster the potato crop is well up to standard in yield and that those in touch with farming operations do not anticipate any shortage.”

The Roamer added: “This is good news for our housewives, as standing in queues for potatoes in Northern Ireland is unusual and, on top of other shortages, would be exasperating.

“The old custom of heralding, as an event, the first of the ‘earlies’ appears to be dying out, although there is still controversy as to whether the quality is as good as in previous years. I have heard recently several opinions for and against the quality this season’s crop.”

Derek Paul and Robert Holmes check out this vintage International tractor at Desertmartin Parish Church’s 25th annual garden fete and vintage rally in August 2010. Picture: Simon Robinson/Mid Ulster Mail archives

POTATO PRICES

Meanwhile, the News Letter also reported during this week in 1951 that the British Minister of Food, Mr Maurice Webb, had been unable to agree to suggestions that price control on potatoes should be removed by the ministry a day after which many London greengrocers were sold out of potatoes by midday.

“Because the bad weather in the early part of the year, the planting of potatoes was much later than usual, and the recent spell dry weather has retarded growth,’’ the Ministry explained.

“In such circumstances, farmers have reduced their lifting until the potatoes make heavier weights.

“The widespread rains of the weekend will do a good deal to improve the condition the crop and, given reasonable weather, the situation should right itself shortly.”

The Ministry pointed out that the present prices were agreed the agricultural departments and the Ministry of Food in consultation with farmers.

“To allow a steep rise in prices for a week or two would mean a wasteful use much of the crop, and would not be in the best interests of consumers generally.”