Romance is Spoiled by Eid
Farmers Weekly November 2011
They tell me that if you want to keep your marriage alive and exciting you need to be a little bit unpredictable and spontaneous. Last Thursday morning was one of those moments. I awoke to the sound of the wind and the rain pelting against the bedroom window. It sounded so wild and wet and miserable outside that my mind turned to things that a man aught not to think about, while being snuggled up with the love of his life. So, without thinking, the mad, impetuous fool that I am, I whispered in Mrs McQ’s ear, “Do you fancy going to Longtown Mart with me?”
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that Janet was thrilled at the prospect of going to the market with me. However, that initial feeling of euphoria was to be short lived as events unfolded.
There was a gather-up of sheep in “Sinner’s Paddock” which had been accruing over the autumn and this seemed as good a day as any to get them away. However, it will come as no surprise to anyone who has marketed a wide range of cast sheep lately, that it was the dreaded ear tags that took the shine off our jolly to the North of England.
As soon as the pack of miscreants entered the sheep pens it was obvious that there were going to be problems. There were geriatric Blackies that had no tags at all and there were younger sheep that should have been double tagged but had lost one. And, to round the group off nicely, there was a ram lamb that had lost its electronic tag but still retained the other one.
Keeping calm, I reminded myself that this will not be a problem for a progressive and modern sheep farmer like me. I have the identities of all of my sheep entered into a very slick software package that is linked to an even slicker handheld electronic reader. Janet brought me my new toy from the house and we set about retagging the sheep and recording the information onto the gadget.
It will come as no surprise that the exercise did not go well. I’m unsure if it was my lack of understanding of the cursed, whining and beeping, EID reader or my lack of understanding of the, even more cursed, tagging and recording legislation but things became very fraught indeed.
Before I was finished the red mist had come down and when it cleared away it had left behind 31 slightly distressed sheep; one very distressed wife; three different tag applicators; three different types of tags and a discarded EID tag reader which had been replaced by a clipboard and pen!
My miserable failure to easily retag and record such a small number of sheep brought one important thing home to me. For sheep farmers, going to an auction mart will never again be the carefree pleasure it once was. All the good craic and the excitement of the auction is now overshadowed by the spectre of control and punishment for failing to comply with onerous tagging regulations. The real tragedy is that no matter how good the technology gets, human fallibility will ensure that this fear will always be there in the future.
Once we finally got onto the road I commented to Janet that the next time I wake up with the idea of mixing a little bit of business with a day out I will probably have second thoughts. Janet replied that she would probably have second thoughts as well…and a headache; just in case any other bright ideas might cross my mind!