down to earth

or down under.

Another change in life is upon us here in Southern Norway, and I have yet to decide what to do about it. Right now I am just tired.

Feeling dead tired is defi­ni­tely a serious condi­tion, especi­ally when one is prohi­bited from doing any­thing to remedy the situation. Writing this “blog-post” is about all I can do for now, and that in itself is tough enough.

they say we are not running our farm right…

Representatives for the authori­ties that have the ulti­mate say in such matters, Mattilsynet (EN) / Mat­til­synet (NO), showed up on February 15. to say that we are not running our farm in accordance with Norwegian farming rules and regu­la­tions. They also told us that our animals suffered because all facili­ties on our farm was not up to the standards they had intro­duced in later years.
We already had most in line with earlier rules, and have the neces­sary papers on that since year round free­ranging of dairy cows is some­what unusual in Norway.
That we back in 2018 asked the relevant authori­ties for infor­ma­tion about what older rules that had become obsolete and what even­tu­ally new rules and regulations we would have to take into account when starting up again, did not result in any­thing – their duty to inform us about such matters was (in hind­sight) not worth much it seems.

That all our five animals at present are doing fine and are in excel­lent shape and con­di­tion ac­cord­ing to what both we and a local veteri­nary can observe, does not matter one iota to the authori­ties linked to above.
Nor does it matter that I per­son­ally have been totally out of action since May last year, and that others have taken care of the basics on our farm – mainly looking after and feeding our cows – in that time­frame.

The cows pictured in the two images I have included here – pic­tu­res taken by the local veteri­nary, had had too tight neck straps we was told, but there was no signs of that when the same veteri­nary assisted me in removing the straps. I knew that those straps was getting a little tighter than I liked as the animals slowly grew larger, but did not get around to put on the new straps we had bought before I went down last spring.
The care­taker in my absence – a partner in our small farming project from the restart in 2018 – did not see those straps as in any way being trouble­some for the two animals that had them, and, honestly, neither did I when I returned to the farm. The cows are – as mentioned – free­ranged year round, and have grown thick winter fur-coats that showed no signs of having been affected when the straps were removed from the animals' necks – see pic­tures above.

That I needed assistance of a veteri­nary to have the straps removed, was the result of me having been away from the farm for too long. The animals had become skit­tish while I was away and they had had to deal with lots of people who took up the slack both on the farm and on the home-arena. Despite that the animals immedi­ately recog­nised me, with my bad leg it is still diffi­cult to get as close to them as I have been used to, and of course have had to, over the years. This is expected behavior for free­ranged cows, and would remedy itself over time when they have me around.

not allowed 10 days to finish…

A shelter like the one pictured here was ordered, and Mat­til­synet (NO) was informed about the order and time it would take to get it trans­por­ted to our farm. They ignored this com­pletely, despite the fact that it was they who had deman­ded that we had such a struc­ture on the pastures. The old shelter is no longer any good, and is destined for removal.
We can not have a ”Mat­til­synet folly” standing on a dead farm, so as we despite written requests got no response from the authori­ties regarding the time it would take to get it in place – we needed a 10 days exten­sion beyond their given time­frame, we had no choice but to cancel the order on March 3. We are farmers, not gamblers.

We can of course repair the old shelter, and hope it won't end up in, or rather under, the new road.
The shelter is avail­able to the cows as and where it is now. However, some ground­work is needed to get it in perfect order, and the freezing con­di­tions we have as I write this make such work pretty much impos­sible right now. Thus, we will have to wait for the ground to thaw … sigh…

The overbuild on the feeding structure is unfinished – one of the jobs I had plan­ned to do last summer and had bought all the neces­sary material for, but, as mentioned, I was sick all last summer and fall and was not present on the farm. Only some work to prepare access for the feed-wagon was done in that time­frame.
Lately we have also drained, lifted and pre­pared the ground the animals walk on around the structure. All in accor­dance with existing plans, as the material (gravel) was already on the farm.

The pasture was not looking good this winter – despite heavy drainage and pawing on those and other areas in earlier years, as the animals have been restricted to that very same area for too long while we have waited for clearance with regard to the national road project plans and its impact on our farm.
Despite the still missing national road plans, we opened the gate (pictured here) on Feb­ru­ary 28 and let the animals out on the (for them) new pasture, where they have year-round access to natural shelters in old wood­land, access to water and all kinds of vege­ta­tion, and solid ground to walk and lie down on every­where in an area plenty large enough for a much larger herd than ours to spend most of their natural lives all year round. So far the animals have only taken the area nearest to the feeding space in use, and have not bothered to go much further than to the creek behind the old shelter.

we're not sorry, but your time is out…

To sum it up: because not every­thing on our farm is up to the latest Norwegian farming stan­dards as pr. today, we are told that we can no longer have animals on our farm. That we would be able to ful­fill even the strictest parts of the latest rules and regu­la­tions (see above) with a ten days exten­sion to the given time­frame presented to us by Mat­til­synet (NO), does not matter. They have decided that we are in viola­tion of their stan­dards, and that we do not know, and never should be allowed “to learn”, how to farm in accor­dance with same standards. So the farm­gates will be closed on a given date no matter what we do accor­ding to written messages from Mat­til­synet.

The closing date is set to March 10 this year, while we could, and would, have had every­thing in formal and prac­tical order by March 20. With such an unreason­able decision by Mat­til­synet (NO) I am now limited to feeding our cows twice a day for as long as they stay on our farm, and can not do any­thing beyond that to affect their, and our, situation.

So, first the authori­ties block our farming by put­ting a road plan with a pro­ject that will affect our farm, on hold inde­fi­ni­tely. And then they tell us that we should have put in all our limited resour­ces in fencing off ranges and instal­ling perma­nent faci­li­ties, with­out any­one of those respon­sible for these pro­jects having to inform us if all that we were supposed to do would be lost to this national road project, or be left alone for us to use in our farming. All in all an impos­sible situa­tion, that by now has lasted for years and still isn't sorted out by those in charge of the various parts of the “blockade”.
That is how things are at the moment, and there is no point in expanding with too many details right now. Maybe later, as it might be fun to read for some of those who are not directly affec­ted.

blowing the whistle…

Someone asked me how Mat­til­synet (NO) got involved. That is not a question one should even bother to ask, ever, as any­one may, and should, blow the whistle on what they see as poor or insuf­fi­cient animal wel­fare, and they have the right to do so ano­nym­ously.
Whistleblowers do not even have to know what they are talking about, as in cases like ours that is for Mat­til­synet (NO) to sort out. That those in the latter circles do not have to know what they are talking about either, is another matter entirely.

Whether or not I know who blew the whistle or what the actual report con­tained, also does not, and should not, matter. Let who­ever they are keep their law-pro­tec­ted ano­ny­mity, and forget all about them and their actions – it simply does not matter.
The only thing that matters to us, and should matter to others who are or have been involved in this specific case for what­ever reason, is that no matter how any­one twists and turns it: our animals are doing perfectly fine in every respect, despite the recog­nized short­comings related to rules and regu­la­tions in how we have run our farm lately – which is what we have tried to focus on all along, and, of course, whether or not we will be given a real chance to righten the short­comings related to the inade­quate shel­ter­ing pro­vided for our cows out on pasture, or simply be shut down and declared for dead.

It is hard to have been unable to do what should have been done around here despite good inten­tions and plans. For the last nine months or so because I per­son­ally have been, and still am, recovering from the deadly medical con­di­tion I ended up with last year, but also very much because those behind the national road project have kept us in the dark all along about where we can and where we can not do any­thing sub­stan­tial on our farm­land. Tied at both hands and feet for years, and then being punished for not living up to expec­ta­tions.
If you are involved in animal husbandry in Norway, you better not get sick. If you have even the slightest chance of sur­viv­ing the ordeal, those in power are likely to make sure you for­ever will regret that you did.
As you may have noticed, there is not much trust in Norwegian author­ities around here at the moment, as if I think any­body in those circles cares…

our future in farming…

We have worked hard these last few weeks in the beginning of March, to get every­thing the authori­ties repre­sen­ted by Mat­til­synet (NO) have com­plain­ed about in order. By doing so we seem to have avoided the worst out­come – permanent closure, but are still not quite there when it comes to ful­filling the latest rules and regu­la­tions to the letter regarding struc­tures for all-year free-ranging of cows.
The five animals we have now, are of suit­able age, size and weight, and are in good shape, and we have decided that they will go to slaughter. That is where farm-animals are supposed to end up any­way when all goes well, so nothing out of the ordinary there.
Once they have left there won't be any animals on the farm for a while – at least for a few months, and then we will decide if, when, and with what type/​race of animals, we want to repopu­late our pastures with. Although our choice of types/​races of farm animals have been cows raised for milk-pro­duc­tion up until now, we do have alter­na­tives.

Anyway, whatever happens within and out­side our control in the near future, it is time for a pause here at our small farm. I need to refocus on my own health for a while if I want to stay alive, before going on with further plan­ning, ground­work, dis­man­tling and/​or fixing of old struc­tures, and/​or building of new ones.

Trust in Norwegian author­ities and what goes on in the various bureau­cra­tic circles, has suffered beyond repair by now I'm afraid, but, despite every­thing, we are not dead yet, and neither of us are much for quit­ting before life itself say that we have to. That day will come soon enough anyway.

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 05.mar.2023
last rev: 28.mar.2023

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