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“Cows have no concept of the global pandemic”

“Cows have no concept of the global pandemic”

Friday 05 March 2021

“Cows have no concept of the global pandemic”


Dairy farmers have reflected on the "tougher challenges" they faced during Lockdown Two, as the self-proclaimed "masters of isolation" got to grips with unforeseen problems.

Guernsey cows are famous the world over for the quality of their milk. But keeping island fridges well stocked during the pandemic has challenged Guernsey’s farming community more than ever.

Local dairy farmers have needed to introduce even tighter restrictions in line with Public Health guidelines, to ensure they remain fit and healthy and so can continue their daily routines.

“Our work carries on as usual, irrespective of any restrictions lockdown brings,” said Michael Bray, a farmer from Les Jaonnets Farm and President of the Guernsey Farmers Association. 

“My cows have no concept of the global pandemic. They still need care and husbandry, as well as milking twice a day.” 

Covid-19 has forced farmers to be even more vigilant. “Should one of us contract the virus, running our farms and finding sufficient cover would then become extremely challenging.” 

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Pictured: Breakdowns in milking machinery have become harder to fix during the pandemic, as specialist technicians have not been able to come over to the island. 

Mr Bray’s family was one of many that, through the Dance Festival’s contact tracing programme, needed to self-isolate.

“We cut ourselves off from everyone outside the immediate family, which raised all sorts of conflicts for us as we still had to continue to look after our cows’ welfare - we were unable to drop everything and walk away,” he said. 

“During normal circumstances, if we are going to take a holiday we would have been preparing handovers on the farm for a good few weeks beforehand, which would not have happened if I’d had a positive Covid result.”

Julian Ogier, from Le Hechet Farm, said that long working days make it difficult for him to have much contact with people in the wider community. 

“We are actually masters of isolation. For many of us, milking starts at 5.25am every day and our work tends not to be finished much before 6.30pm so it’s a long and fairly anti-social day with little if no interaction with anyone outside each of our farms.” 

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Pictured: Guernsey Dairy Managing Director Andrew Tabel.

 

Globally, farmers are experiencing even wider challenges, with shortages of supplies and materials needed for farm maintenance. A wet winter has also put some farmer’s land management work behind schedule. 

 

By now I would normally be preparing my fields ahead of spring," said Mr Ogier. "We also totally rely on our milking machinery to be in good working order but now, when things go wrong, it isn’t very easy to get them fixed. Normally we would fly a specialist technician over from the UK but instead we have had to compromise.”

Andrew Tabel, Managing Director of Guernsey Dairy, acknowledged the difficult and challenging times the island’s dairy farmers are going through to ensure the dairy receives its regular supply of fresh local milk.

What has made this period more demanding, he said, is the increase in milk sales, offset by a reduction in raw milk intake as farmers counter the effects of the recent cold spell.

Pictured top: Michael Bray from Les Jaonnets Farm and President of the Guernsey Farmers Association.

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