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
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
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.
last rev: 28.mar.2023