Hot air balloons and dung heap maps… it must be inspection season

Muriel Naughton with her husband Cameron rents 800 acres from the Crown Estate in Wiltshire. They have 500 outdoor sows on a three-week batch production system. Weaners are liquid-fed to bacon weight in straw yards and then sold through Thames Valley Cambac

I write this on Valentine’s Day – a big day in the Naughton household as I’m sure you can imagine…moving on!

Recently we have enjoyed a new family pastime. It’s a debate about which of our cats would be the first to be thrown out of a plummeting hot air balloon. It can provide hours of entertainment! You may be surprised to hear that opinion is divided in our house.

For instance, do you evict the beautiful but bad-tempered fluffy one (a favourite choice). Or you could choose the boggle-eyed friendly one who has the eye-watering habit of lovingly biting noses.

As yet, we haven’t moved on to include the human family members, but as it seems to be inspection season, I feel a whole new topic of debate opening up – however, I know a number of inspectors read these articles so I will be circumspect!

Our IPPC and Red Tractor inspection (pigs and crops) is booked for early March; our landlords did their annual stomp round all the properties last week; I know the incinerator will be inspected soon and the VMD want to inspect our mill next week. When we’ve dealt with that lot it will be time for customer visits and an RSPCA inspection.

I also need to finalise the accounts and then see if our new expensive software will speak to HMRC, so we are compliant with MTD. It’s lucky I have a good view from my office as I seem to be spending a lot of time there. Unfortunately, the view is of the garden so I can also see all the jobs that need doing!

When this article is finished, I shall get on with parcelling up and posting dung and dirty water samples and mixer spread samples from the mill. I will check my dung heap map and records and ensure all my Nmax calculations are done, that all fields have been soil tested and the borehole has been sampled etc.

Oh, and then there is the visitor book! Every organisation seems to want something slightly different. We, have until recently, used our farm diary as a visitor book – simple, first remove the angry cat drying herself on the open diary, then get visitors to sign in with a pig-clean time. For the last year or so, we have also had to ask the welcoming question of whether they have a dietary upset.

Now we seem to have to question whether they are carrying recording equipment. The form continually needs re-designing. Then, does all that comply with GDPR? Frankly, I don’t know and I’m not sure how much I care. Stop the balloon, I want to get out!

Returning to the theme of plummeting from the sky, I want to let you know publicly I think Cameron is mad. I hate heights. I am not watching. He’s also pretty broken already –however, I do think it’s a great cause, so please do support him.

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