I woke up this morning to find my Twitter timeline full of praise from farmers for last night’s episode of Countryfile.

I did do a quick double take, because normally farmers do love a good whinge about the coverage, or perceived lack thereof, of “real” farming issues. Having missed the episode last night, I made sure to catch up over a cup of tea and a sandwich at lunch time and I have to say it is one of the best episodes of Countryfile I have seen in a very long time.

It was great to see Countryfile dedicate a whole show to the UK Sheep sector and I think the whole team did an excellent job of highlighting some of the real issues facing sheep farmers in 2015.

Joe Crowley opened the show with a look at the British wool industry. It would be interesting to see how much the British public thought farmers were paid for their wool and, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that they thought we were making a good profit. Unfortunately, the reality is many farmers are making a loss at shearing time.

Wool plays a vital role for sheep during the cold, winter months but come summertime it can cause all sorts of problems. Wool can cause sheep to become stuck on their back or a build up of dung in the wool can attract flies and maggots, both of which can prove costly financially, and in worst case scenarios lead to loss of life.

Despite what some folk believe, we farmers want what’s best for the animals, so regardless of the financial implications, the wool has to come off. It was good to see Joe shine a spotlight on wool, a problem that doesn’t really get any coverage, and nice to see some farmers and local businesses working together to add value to British wool.

With #NoLambWeek in full swing, and protests taking place all over the country, I think it was very important for Countryfile to wade in on the lamb price debate. With British farmers following the lead of the French and embarking on protests, it could be very easy for us to alienate the very people we need on our side, the general public.

Whatever some farmers may think about Countryfile, it’s a hugely popular show in a prime time slot on the BBC and their choice to shine a light on the problems the falling lamb price is causing British farmers will help members of the public understand the thinking of farmers who feel forced to protest and may also ease any public backlash.

Now, sometimes I can find Tom Heap’s pieces a bit heavy and full of doom and gloom, but I felt Tom did a great job last night and found the report very informative and, more importantly, balanced and fair. It looked at the issue from the points of view of the supermarkets and both British and New Zealand farmers and most importantly spread the positive message that the UK public can make a huge difference by choosing British lamb.

We can’t realistically expect NZ lamb to disappear from UK supermarket shelves and nor should we expect preferential treatment based solely on the fact our produce is British, however, British farmers are producing an excellent product and when it is in season it should be supported.

While we are producing an excellent product, we should look for ways to add value and both Joe Crowley and Anita Rani visited British farmers doing just that. Producing Mutton or sheep’s milk and cheese are just two ways of creating an alternative source of income and you can see two great examples of farmers doing just that on last night’s show. I won’t go in to it too much or we’ll be here all night, but it’s worth checking out.

As I said, last nights episode was one of the best I’ve seen in a long, long time (if not ever?) and balanced highlighting real farming issues with and easy Sunday night viewing perfectly. It was great to see so many farmers happy to see the issues affecting them on a day to day basis and tweeting positively about Countryfile. Hopefully the BBC will take notice and we’ll see more episodes like this in the future!

If you missed it, you can catch the episode HERE.

It’s well worth a watch.


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