The farm has begun its inexorable downhill spiral. In fact, it probably started a couple of years ago, but because my husband is such an insatiable optimist (next year will always be better), we have largely chosen to ignore the damning columns of figures in our accounts.
The last or our lambs was born a few days ago and the first will soon be ready to be sold. This is usually a cause for minor celebration. The hard work of lambing is over and in a few weeks the recompense will arrive. Every year the cheque is smaller and running costs are higher, but it doesn’t matter, because “maybe next year things will pick up”. I suppose that when you’re a farmer you need a certain amount of idealism to justify the work of the last 12 months and to give yourself a reason for continuing. How else could you go on?
This time the presence of an ominous shadow has dampened even my husband’s spirits. The cooperative which usually takes the lambs has been momentarily refusing those of neighbouring farmers. The glut of foreign imports means the market is saturated. Closing the doors of the abattoir, even temporarily however, could mean the wiping out a year’s profits. The longer the lambs stay at the farm, the more they eat and the bigger they grow. When they are eventually sold they are too heavy and are downgraded.
Lambing is an annual event on our farm – we only have one chance at getting it right. My husband (the eternal optimist, remember?) has decided to give direct selling a go. English visitors often compare our lamb to prime quality Welsh. With this compliment among others in hand, we will have the lambs professionally prepared and presented ready for eating or freezing. A neighbour is lending us a refrigerated van so that we can sell them on the farm and in a nearby department. The rest of the lambs will go to the cooperative, if they will take them.
Anybody for a leg of lamb?