Thursday, November 13, 2008

In which we are asked to keep our eyes open....

Towards the end of the afternoon yesterday there was a rap on the door. Heather stood outside.

'No,' she said. She wouldn't come in right now: 'Dirty boots see.'

She'd come down to see to the cattle in the shed; there are some cows and calves and a wheezing bull - which may or may not be impotent - in there for the winter. Over the next few months they'll munch their way through the bales of hay which are stacked in an adjacent barn - feed which is supplemented by an eagerly awaited daily ration of nuts.

'Could you keep your eyes and ears open' she asked, nodding towards the barn ominously - 'and if you were to smell smoke.....loose out the cattle straight away. Straight away - just let 'em go.'

She made an expansive gesture. 'Just loose 'em all out, it doesn't matter where.' Her arm indicated that anywhere in Powys would be better than a blazing barn.

Our farmers are worried; a fourth farm blaze has got them rattled. The Fire Service cagily recommend vigilance and urge landowners to keep an eye on their property and to check the temperature of stored hay. Hay, if stored with the moisture levels too high, can spontaneously combust - this year a lot of grass was cut late and in less than ideal conditions. This is a plausible explanation. However, our neighbours suspect a more sinister cause: arson.

What a terrible and terrifying act, especially senseless and cruel when livestock is involved. We will, of course, 'loose 'em out' if the worst comes to the worst. I make a mental note to work out in advance how best to do this - bearing in mind that it will undoubtably be dark, raining and we would be dealing with frightened large animals.

Heather leaves to go up to Fir House to pass on her message there and we contemplate what an uphill struggle farming must be at times; the battle with the elements, the escalating costs of feed and fuel, the low prices at market, the endless bureaucracy...the devastation that was Foot and Mouth and the threat of Blue Tongue which is omnipresent. The list is a long one. They cope.

.....then out of the blue comes a fool with a box of matches.

11 comments:

Nikki-ann said...

I couldn't believe it when the boss at work warned a colleague she may have to go the long way home as there'd been ANOTHER fire at a farm. It's just so unbelievable that somebody could do this... I hope we;ve seen an end to it, but I fear we've not.

luos said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LittleBrownDog said...

What a terrible thought - how could anyone do such a thing to poor, defenceless and confined animals? Hay with excess moisture levels may well be a risk factor - I remember our compost heap at home spontaneously catching fire after being piled with much damp grass.

Sincerely hope it isn't something you have to deal with.

KittyB said...

We once saw a car full of scally town youths setting fire to a hay barn, luckily no animals in it. When we knocked on the farmer's door to tell him he said it was the second time in a year. Thankfully they caught the boys who did it.

Pam said...

Humanity sometimes makes me despair. I couldn't begin to imagine setting fire to a bar full of livestock. I hope they catch the culprits.
This week I've been wholly miserable reading all about "Baby P" and just wondering how on earth people can do what they do

Diary Farmer said...

We're keeping our 'eyes peeled' down here in the valley too. On the bureaucracy front - we have had a man from the Rural Payments Agency here today checking ear tags in the cattle as well as their passports. I'm tempted to take Mrs D and use our our own passports on a one way trip........to Canada.

Fennie said...

I heard about this on the news recently. Horrible! How could anyone want to do that sort of thing? If it were the hay, surely you would detect a rise in temperature before it ever combusted and there would be that fermenting smell - wouldn't there?

snailbeachshepherdess said...

FIL lives on a farm right in the centre of all this and is simply terrified

bodran... said...

We had an arse-onist in our area last year they even managed to set the mountain on fire. Very scary xx

Nan said...

What a terrible, terrible thing. So frightening. I wonder if they have extra patrols out watching. You'd almost think they would hire someone for every barn. It just sickens me.

Exmoorjane said...

We get idiots setting fire to moorland and bracken......but (fingers crossed) no direct arson like this. Just awful.