The latest bobby calf cruelty video released by Farmwatch is yet again another salutary reminder of how careful farmers and farming have to be, in an age where social media rules and where the consumer is king.

I have to be bit careful when dishing out advice from behind the safety of a keyboard because I've never loaded bobby calves on to a truck, save for a few we bought and reared as kids on to the back of a car trailer.

But I have spent many years, in a past life, working with livestock and can understand the pressures and fatigue farmers and farm workers face in the course of a 14 hour working day at calving or lambing time. And I can see how a truck driver could get frustrated loading young animals, unsteady and uncertain on their feet, on to truck knowing their fate is already sealed and they're not long for this world anyway.

However that's not the point. The reality is farmers, like the rest of us, live in an increasingly regulated society where Big Brother is potentially watching over us 24/7. What was passable and perhaps acceptable practice 20 or 30 years ago, no longer cuts the mustard.


I shudder to think of what would happen to me and most of my then sheep farming mates if Farmwatch was about with a video camera when I was in the heat of battle on the lambing beat back in the day.

I can openly and honestly admit to losing my temper on occasions and some of our farming practises were, with the wisdom of hindsight, perhaps somewhat barbaric.

The advent of mobile phones with sophisticated video cameras and social media means farming is potentially under constant surveillance. Non-compliant behaviour has to change.

Let me throw (no bad bobby calf handling pun intended) a radio example at you. In the sometimes male-dominated world of rural broadcasting in which I've worked over the years, it would be fair to say some of the language bandied about is not for the faint-hearted. Some of the best proponents of the profanity I know work in radio.

My point being, in 22 years of radio I've never once unwittingly sworn on air. It's a practised and ingrained behaviour that when the microphone's on, the swear words are off the agenda. So what's that got to do with farming I hear you ask?

It's a learned and entrenched behaviour and a survival mechanism. Just as I learned from a very early age not to kick a prime lamb up the backside when it refused to climb up the loading ramp, when my father delivered the same punishment to me!

I'm not for a moment suggesting farmers need the same treatment I got. But 1% of you do. So when it comes to Farmwatch, don't get angry, get even! Treat the microphone as live at all times and don't give them anything to hang you by.

It works. I swear by it.