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Jo Mackenzie: Lockdown farm walks blighted by dog mess

Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle.
Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle.

Now that the ground has thawed, Nick has been able to get on with field work this month, ploughing and spreading slurry to fertilise the ground as naturally and cheaply as possible.

It doesn’t make for the most fragrant of lockdown walks but it is a working dairy farm after all; dung comes with the territory.

What we do find offensive is the dog mess that has appeared around the farm since the first lockdown, a common trend on the few woodland and beachside walks we do around our local area. It’s incensing.

Isn’t there enough going on in the world without leaving dog muck all over our beautiful outdoors for each other to tread in?

The restrictions have propelled people into the countryside and we’ve certainly seen a greater number of walkers at Rootfield, which we welcome, but it is astonishing how many dog owners are clearly not picking up after their four-legged friends.

Dog walkers not cleaning up after their four-legged friends has been a cause of frustration at Rootfield.

Poop-scooping after Cocoa, our lively chocolate Cocker, is not one of our favourite aspects of owning a dog, but she can hardly do it for herself and we feel it is totally unacceptable not to do so.

We are fortunate to have a lovely half mile loop through the fields and around the farm that the girls as well as friends and neighbours regularly walk and cycle along, and never before have we had to be so vigilant for dog mess underfoot or wheel.

The incidence along the verges and on the track has become so problematic that I ordered signs, which Nick has now tacked onto fence posts all along the right of way in a bid to tackle the problem.

Nick is keen to address the issue for the sake of his herd when the cows go back to pasture since consuming dog excrement can cause a pregnant cow to abort (because of neospora), especially as he has recently experienced calf mortalities in the herd, which he and his vet are investigating.

On a sweeter note, the news of a potential relaxing of restrictions at the end of April has seen Rosie and the dairy processing team start to increase ice cream production again.

Jo’s husband Nick with some of the cows at Rootfield.

The pandemic has been hard on hospitality and retail businesses, who we have the greatest empathy with, and clearly demand for our ice cream over winter and lockdown has not been high. It is such a relief to see advance orders from the trade beginning to trickle back in.

It is heartening, too, to hear good news stories of businesses opening and indeed thriving despite – and even in spite of – the current climate, such as Tweedy Pie in nearby seaside town Fortrose.

Owner, Julie Mackay, launched the bricks and mortar shop this month on the high street out of a greater demand to shop local during lockdown and will sell high quality takeaway food and drinks – including our milk and yoghurt – with a focus on award-winning Jarvis Pickle pies as well as local crafts including Harris tweed homewares.

Via social media, the shop has already started trading with a click and collect service and business is booming with themed and bespoke hampers selling out.

Similarly artisan businesses ‘Mo[r]n Candles’, launched a few months before the beginning of the pandemic, has gone from strength to strength.

Quickly establishing a loyal following for its hand poured candles, the company has offered socially distanced local doorstep deliveries during lockdown and has seen people treating themselves and loved ones to the everyday luxury of a beautifully fragranced candle (Sicilian Lemon & Mint my favourite – hint, hint Family).

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

  • Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 120 dairy cows.

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