Pesky experts need a good spray

By Katie MacAuley

I’VE DISCOVERED a new species of farming pest. Self-proclaimed experts.

Self-proclaimed experts have invaded agriculture in droves. Lately, it seems that no matter where I go, the moment I mention that I live on a farm, the unsolicited advice begins.

Strangers on trains, work colleagues and distant (city-based) relatives. Everyone knows how farmers could farm more effectively and best of all, “it’s so easy”.

Now, while I’m no expert at farming (that’s Hubby’s role), it makes me cross. The cattle, weather, insects and even markets have minds of their own. There are a lot of variables to consider.

Farming is more than watching grass grow — in fact, a lot of the time, farming involves watching grass NOT grow.

My first example occurred during a discussion group where our herd’s performance was being analysed. One individual, who I had not met previously, was convinced he knew how to improve our production instantly.

“You need to invest more money in the right infrastructure,” he proclaimed confidently. “In fact, with the new milking infrastructure I’m proposing, you’ll make so much money that you won’t know yourself.”

Wow, I thought. What an endorsement. Maybe we should consider this. When I brought it up with Hubby afterwards, Hubby gently explained that this fellow was a seed salesman with no farming experience. His expertise was persuasion.

Yep. I could see that.

Next I was cornered by a workmate who had never seen our farm. Without preamble, he recommended we remove all introduced grass from our pasture and replant only grasses native to our area. I failed to convince him that this area had previously been bush — the only grass was small amounts of sword-grass that even the native animals avoided.

Another popular argument I regularly hear regarding poor pasture management is the perceived superiority of the grass on the side of the road to that of nearby paddocks. I am met with scepticism when I try to explain about a) road camber and water run-off, b) the fact that, unlike the paddocks, the side of the road has not been grazed and c) that not every small green plant on the side of the road is desirable.

The most disturbing aspect of these ‘pests’ is that their numbers increase exponentially. At this rate, it won’t be long before every non-farmer I meet will be offering us farming advice.

I pointed out my dilemma to Hubby.

“We need an integrated pest management system,” he decided.

“First we trap them — by offering them the chance to demonstrate how to do it better themselves. If that doesn’t work, then we bait them — by offering reams of unsolicited advice in their field of expertise.”

I grinned. It could be fun telling city people how to drive in traffic or office workers how to maintain an empty in-box (both areas in which I am completely unqualified).

“Finally,” he said, “if we still can’t get rid of the self-proclaimed experts, we’ll give them a spray. Verbally of course.”