Matt Baker and Helen Skelton are in Derbyshire, where Matt is exploring the boom in farming alpacas. Tom Heap looks at illegal abattoirs.
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The telltale skyline of tops and tors
tells you this can only be Derbyshire.
And these can only be alpacas.
Nothing new there.
But with more and more people keeping them,
their welfare is becoming more of an issue.
And today, I'm going to be taking some of these, along with owners
from all across the area, to the first event of its kind,
just for alpacas.
Helen shows true grit when she takes part in an activity that's got
a distinctly Derbyshire feel.
-Go on, Helen.
-It does look quite snug, doesn't it?
All right. I'm going in. Is headfirst the tactic?
You've got to work it out.
Tom asks if the meat we buy is all it's cracked up to be.
First reaction was one of shock and disbelief, coming across both
an illegal abattoir, and just the disregard for food hygiene.
We've more from our rural vets.
There's something not quite right here today.
We've just got slightly irregular beats here.
We might have to investigate this further.
And Adam's in North Wales,
getting a look at a working dog from halfway around the world.
-She's great, isn't she?
-Wonderful, isn't she? Yeah.
How did you learn how to work a huntaway?
Mostly watching YouTube clips on the internet.
This is Derbyshire.
Stunning countryside with breathtaking views.
A place that gives you space to think.
Where nature lays out its wonders before you.
I love Derbyshire.
It's a landscape that feels like it's been worked for centuries.
And just look at this place.
These rugged valley sides that have been grazed and shaped
by cattle and sheep.
It's a county best known for the windswept beauty of
the Peak District National Park.
But I've followed the River Derwent south,
to the gentler pastures and farming country of its lower reaches.
And when I say farming country, I don't mean sheep and cattle.
Open the gate!
-Oh, look at them, with their lovely little gallop on!
Come on, girls!
Alpacas. More at home in the mountains of Peru
than the green valleys of Derbyshire.
So, how well have they settled here?
Well, Ingrid Ruston has been farming alpacas for more than a decade.
-How many do you have in all, then?
-We've got 30 altogether.
-So, we've got two different fleece types here.
-They're fluffy ones, like teddy bears.
They're Huacayas. And the ones with the fleece hanging down...
-..she's a Suri.
And why did you start with alpacas?
-What was it about them?
-Good question, Matt.
You're still asking yourself the same thing!
My husband, Terry, he had a colleague at work
whose wife bred them.
-And over a year or so,
they kept asking us if we'd like to go and see them.
And, of course, we did, one time. And what happened?
We bought three pregnant females and brought them home!
-They're all getting braver now.
-You want a bit as well,
-come on in. You have a look, join the party.
-I think it's...
-That was a cough, not a spit, I think. Oh, no, it was a spit.
-Now she's getting very jealous.
-Because she wants the food.
-They don't spit at you, but they will tell each other off.
When you see them together in a bunch, it's just full of character,
-isn't it, that view?
-It is, it is.
They're not just pretty faces.
Alpaca fleece is much finer than the best lamb's wool.
And that means it's worth a small fortune.
It should be all about the fleece.
That's why we have alpacas.
But there isn't enough fleece in the country, as yet, to make it such
a valuable proposition for a lot of producers.
-But it's growing, and we need it to grow.
And we need it to grow in a quality way.
-Shall we go and give them their food inside?
Come on, then, girls. Come on, girls!
See if you're going to follow me? Come on.
The high value of their fleeces
is driving interest in farming these animals.
Numbers have rocketed from just a few hundred,
30 years ago, to more than 50,000 today.
To really appreciate the quality of the fleece,
you need to get hands-on.
Leigh Woods weaves alpaca hats, socks and scarves.
Well, Leigh, it's very good to see you.
What are you busy with here, then?
I'm making, today, a scarf from Suri alpaca yarn.
Right. Do you have it in its natural form? I can see you've got
-a bag of stuff down there...
..just so we can have a little look at how it starts out.
Right, so this is the fleece, then.
And it is so incredible.
I mean, it's silky, it's almost silky, isn't it?
Well, alpaca fibre is closer to silk
than other traditional woollen yarns.
And how long will it take you to make a full-length scarf, then?
About five hours to do a scarf.
OK. And there's one that's just hanging up behind us here,
which looks absolutely beautiful.
And again, I mean, talking of that silky texture,
-that, by your skin...
-Is lovely, yeah.
It's a nice environment to be working with this audience.
It's very relaxing.
-They're looking at what they can donate in the summer.
-Yeah, I know.
Alpaca fleece can sell for as much as £12 a kilo.
Compare that to around £1, on average, for a kilo of sheep fleece,
and you can see why so many are getting into alpacas.
High grade fleeces are in demand,
and products made from them command premium prices.
But it's not all plain sailing keeping alpacas.
There can be problems with newborn animals, in particular.
And later, I'll be seeing how a novel approach to welfare
is helping improve their chances.
Now, when we buy our meat,
of course, we all hope that it's safe and above board.
But what if it's not as wholesome as you'd like to think?
And just a warning, this report contains some disturbing images.
From field to fork.
If you want a Sunday roast or a tasty cut midweek,
there is one unavoidable truth.
All those animals we see grazing in the fields
will have to go to the slaughterhouse.
But at least we can take comfort in knowing the meat we buy from
the butcher's or supermarket goes through a process to ensure it's fit
for consumption, and that the animals have been well treated.
I'm just going to check your temperatures, if I can.
Jeremy Pritchard works for Mid Devon District Council.
It's his job to ensure that the meat being sold is safe.
Morning. What a fine counter you've got here.
-Thank you very much.
-What kind of thing are you looking for in a place
-A typical inspection of a butcher's shop,
we're looking for complete separation of raw meats
and ready-to-eat, cooked food, which is absolutely ideal here.
And in terms of meat, we're looking at traceability, and on some of
the large cuts here, we're looking at the health mark.
Each carcass has been stamped to show it's fit for human consumption.
The number corresponds to specific abattoirs
and cutting plants which have been approved
by the Food Standards Agency.
Well, I must say, it's a totally lip-smacking display,
so it's great to know that it's all safe as well. It's brilliant.
The meat in this butcher's may be perfect,
but can we always be sure standards are this high?
In 2013, Jeremy's team made a grim discovery.
An illegal abattoir in the heart of the Southwest.
So, what was your reaction?
First reaction was one of shock and disbelief.
And just the disregard for food hygiene.
Yeah. So, tell me what you actually found,
I gather you've got some pictures here.
First thing I saw was a pool of blood,
outside in the actual farmyard.
This shows the actual cutting room.
We had harnesses around the place, where animals would be hoisted up,
if you like, prior to being bled.
-Inside the cutting room, it's absolutely filthy.
We had a build-up of waste,
a complete disregard for cleaning facilities.
-What's all this?
-Well, we had to seize the meat that we came across,
so we seized about a tonne of meat, and it was about 12 carcasses.
Loads of meat joints already labelled up.
What was the danger from this?
These animals were unfit for human consumption.
They potentially contained high levels of food poisoning bacteria.
They potentially contained veterinary medicines as well.
We had none of those controls in place that you'd have
in a legal abattoir.
But the people bringing their animals to this abattoir
weren't known criminals, they were farmers.
A notebook seized from the scene detailed hundreds of names.
Are you pretty confident that some of the meat that went through
this abattoir ended up being eaten by the people of Devon?
Well, we know from the notebook, and we know from some of the witness
statements taken, that some of the meat was sold from the premises.
We know that some individuals in here are registered as having
a food premises in Mid Devon.
We know some farmers within Mid Devon have passed
that meat on elsewhere as well. And we know that some of the quantities
of the animals killed, some farmers having up to 17 sheep killed
at one time, this probably wasn't for their own consumption.
-So, the concern and the danger would be that that has been
passed on elsewhere.
The slaughterman behind this operation
was convicted of 16 food hygiene offences.
He was given a suspended prison sentence
and ordered to pay £40,000.
But this wasn't just a one-off.
Other cases from across the country
came with their own graphic record of illegal activity.
Similar scenes have been uncovered in Staffordshire
and in Northern Ireland.
And I'm going to meet the person who was behind another
illegal abattoir in Wales.
Sheep farmer Carmelo Gale was convicted for the seventh time
Why do you think people are using illegal abattoirs?
The reason is quite simple.
In Pembrokeshire, at the moment,
we haven't got any abattoirs at all that will kill red meat.
The shortage of small abattoirs is a growing problem.
With more animals going to larger abattoirs,
and an increasing amount of red tape,
smaller operations are closing down around the country.
In fact, two more have shut since the beginning of this year.
You've got these small farmers now,
which are doing, like, six lambs or six pigs,
they can't afford to take in.
So, you need to kill them locally.
If you've got to take it 80 miles away from your farm,
it's not viable.
The rules about slaughterhouses are put in there
to protect public health.
Wasn't what you were doing putting public health at risk?
No. Definitely not.
Because, you know...
Why not? Just because, as I say,
the rules are there to protect public health.
We want the rules, but just make them simpler.
Get more licensed slaughterhouses on farms, like little rooms even,
and a fridge. So, don't get me wrong, get the vet in to examine
the animal before slaughter, and then stamp it afterwards.
There's no problem. We'll get it regulated,
but make it simpler.
Do you think as long as we don't have local slaughterhouses,
there is a real temptation for illegal slaughter?
Not a temptation, it's going on already.
And if there's more abattoirs going to close down,
it's going to get worse.
The number of abattoirs has dropped
from more than 2,500 in the 1960s, to around 240 today.
But is this enough to explain the illegal activity?
Jeremy thinks it could be.
We used to have a very small abattoir in Lapford, which is
in Mid Devon, which used to serve the farming community.
That closed down probably about ten years ago.
It may be just coincidental,
but this illegal slaughterhouse suddenly started soon after that.
No-one's saying these pictures are commonplace,
but, as with any business,
if there's a demand, some people may take advantage of that.
Later, I'm going to see what a proper abattoir looks like,
and find out about the impact of their demise.
The towering crags of the Peak District
loom large over a landscape of moorland,
..and tumbling streams...
..where freewheeling types share space with climbers and ramblers
and those just wanting time out from the city.
Sheffield's that way, Manchester's just over there
and Birmingham is only a short hop away too.
No wonder this place is so popular.
The Peaks are there for all, but is everyone making the most of them?
A decade ago, the National Parks launched a project called Mosaic,
designed to get more people from ethnic backgrounds
into our countryside.
That all ended back in 2012.
But one or two passionate people are determined to keep the vision alive.
Yvonne Witter is one of them.
She grew up in Jamaica, but fell head over heels
with the Peak District...
I go to Castleton, I go to Eden, I go to Derwent.
..and is now inspiring others.
Although ethnic minorities make up about 10% of the UK population,
there's only 1% of that population that are visitors
to the national park. Some of them don't know about it.
I think some of them have this fear that they'll get lost.
But if you have someone to encourage people,
so they can come out and enjoy what is out here to enjoy.
We did a similar story a couple of years ago, the group in Sheffield.
Are you still having to work hard to get people from ethnic minorities
into the countryside?
Some people have to work harder with some people.
You have to convince them,
and I convince them by telling them about what I have done,
what I've enjoyed, what I've learned,
how I've developed by coming out here
and that's one way of getting them. They've got somebody to lead them.
Yvonne's used all her powers of persuasion
on this cold winter's day.
She's rounded some new recruits from Sheffield, her home city,
who'll be polishing up their outdoor skills.
Instructing the group are park rangers Tom Lewis and Terry Page.
She's even got the boundaries, which is shown by a black line,
which is the one just behind you, here.
-OK, well, you lead the way, then.
At more than 500 square miles,
the Peak District is big enough to get lost in.
So Yvonne wants to make sure her proteges can read a map.
It's an important skill to have,
and one which opens up the countryside.
So, if we pass these around...
How confident are you at map reading, Elaine?
I wasn't confident at all.
Before, I wouldn't come into the countryside, certainly not to walk,
because of fear of getting lost,
as a result of not being able to read the maps.
-Oh, so that actually stopped you coming out here.
Well, let's see how we all get on.
What do you want us to answer?
Well, we'll put them to the test and see if they can recognise any
of the symbols or the features that we can see on the map.
-Perhaps, what they might mean.
-Well, these orange contours, here,
the wider they are from each other, the land is flatter.
But as the contours become closer together,
-then it shows that the land is steeper.
We'll carry on up to Stanage, up that way.
-Go on, Ruby, lead the way.
One recruit who's really got the bug is Godfrey Francis.
His love affair with this landscape has seen him go the extra mile.
He's now training to become a national park ranger.
What does that involve?
It involves learning even more about the biodiversity
and the local ecology, history.
What's not to love? I mean, you're out in the fresh air,
you get to walk all these fabulous trails,
but you're never too old to learn.
So, you really are committing a large chunk of your life to
-the Peak District?
-Yeah, as a volunteer, yes, I am.
Yvonne's got a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes to getting
people excited by nature.
Time now for a little bit of magic,
with nothing more than sphagnum moss.
Joe Margetts and Sarah Proctor
from conservation body Moors For The Future
are in on the act.
So, I've got a jar here, and all that is, is water full of peat.
-And then we've got a clean glass.
-And, in the middle,
some sphagnum in a jar.
I'll try not to pour this on your coat.
You can see...
-..how amazingly clean that water comes out.
That's exactly what's happening on the hills.
Water companies love having sphagnum because it means that when the water
gets down to the reservoirs,
half the work's done in cleaning it already.
Well, how about we head back down the hill and look out for
some sphagnum moss on the way, en route to a coffee?
-That sounds good.
It's something that I enjoy doing,
because I can leave behind me the stress of life.
I can come here and I can sit and I can write a poem.
And just take in the fresh air. Look at the scenery around us,
it's beautiful. Why won't you come out and enjoy the national park,
away from the busy city life?
Over the last few weeks, we've been spending time with a team
of country vets, to see what it takes to look after our livestock
at the most challenging time of year.
The practice in Malmesbury, Wiltshire,
is one of the largest in the country,
with around 40 vets providing care to all creatures great and small.
Layla is a 13-year-old competition horse that's been suffering with
a ligament injury to one of her front legs.
She's Becky Neal's pride and joy.
She's got a very large character, as you can probably see.
Yeah, she's a joy to have around, aren't you?
Yes, lots of character.
Ali is one of the equine vets.
She's arrived to administer some orthopaedic treatment, but before
she starts, she needs to give Layla the once over.
Right, let's just check your ticker's still...
..functioning before we give you your sedation.
I went to listen to her heart, to check it was OK,
to give her some intravenous sedation,
because she doesn't like interference with her leg very much.
-There's something not quite right here today.
She just sounds like she...
We've just got slightly irregular beats here,
so I can give her the shock,
but I wouldn't want to give her any sedation with this.
We might have to investigate this further.
She didn't have a heart murmur, she had an arrhythmia,
so the heart was not in its normal rhythm.
Yes, she's just throwing little extra beats,
so I think we're just going to have to do an ECG on that
and make sure that's OK, Becky.
My heart sank when I realised that poor Becky had yet another problem
with her horse.
Oh. With her, the relationship I've got, it's like if it was your child.
It's the only way I can describe it. I've put ten years of blood,
sweat and tears and a lot of love into her. So, it's devastating.
-OK, all set.
The sedation would make Layla easier to handle,
but as the shock wave treatment itself isn't painful,
Ali's happy to give it a go.
It's fine, I know.
A shock wave is very useful for tendon and ligament injuries
because they don't have a very good blood supply, and it, A,
helps reduce the pain and inflammation and, B,
helps encourage the healing process.
-Well done, poppet.
Try not to worry too much, Becky.
And I'll have a look at the diary and I'll call you in a couple of
-days to organise, A, an ECG, and, B, her next shock wave, OK?
But whilst Ali's packing away, Layla takes a turn for the worse.
That is not normal, Becky.
-I'm just going to check her heart again,
because she's just doing something very strange.
She suddenly semi-collapsed.
She didn't go right down, but she lent right back
on her front legs, and almost went down but didn't quite,
and looked slightly dazed and then appeared to recover.
If she's going to go again, just watch she doesn't fall on you, Ali.
It's interesting. Immediately after she did that,
her heart did sound all over the place and now it's settled.
What are you doing, hey?
-We'll get onto it as soon as we can, OK?
Right, I will speak to you as soon as I can, Becky.
Oh, why can't you just be fixed?
Vets need to be prepared for all eventualities,
as problems can arise out of the blue.
However, for Tom from the farm vets team,
today, he's up to his elbows with routine procedures.
He regularly visits this farm to perform fertility checks.
Part of the process is finding out which cows are pregnant.
She is in calf.
Yay. We use ultrasound.
We scan from the outside, from through the tummy, in a human,
but the cow is too large to do that,
so that's where we have to put the long glove on and put the ultrasound
probe up inside the backside of the cow,
where we can actually place it directly onto the uterus
of the cow, where the calf hopefully is, and on to the ovaries.
You can see the calf on the screen, there.
That's its head, that's its nose, pointing that way.
And it's about seven and a bit weeks old.
There's a good picture of it lying lengthways.
It's about 10, 15 centimetres in size.
I can actually see, check that the heart's beating
to make sure it's OK.
Everything looks fine, so she'll calve in about seven months' time.
The financial performance of a farm is very dependent on the cows being
healthy and productive,
and that involves having a calf each year,
and me being there and checking them just helps achieve that.
They're hugely inquisitive animals.
Some of them are more friendly than others
and actually follow you around and are like naughty schoolchildren.
And unfortunately they weigh about 700, 800 kilos,
so you've got to be a bit careful with them.
Any time today, Tom.
-Yeah, I'm trying.
Despite what they might say, virtually all farmers deeply
care about their animals, and probably are a bit softer than
we imagine they are, and certainly, speaking for myself,
and I'm sure for the other vets as well,
we got into this job because we care about animals and their welfare.
The same is true for Ali from the equine vet team.
She knows exactly what Layla means to owner Becky...
She really is a soul mate,
and I've recently been diagnosed with ME,
and she's kind of the reason that I still get up each day
and force myself to get out of bed,
so she's very important to me and my health.
-Hi, Ali, how are you?
-..so Ali's called in Professor Andy Durham,
a leading horse heart specialist, to see if he can shed any light on
Layla's irregular heartbeat with the help of an ECG.
Right, so we'll just let this record for a bit.
Yeah, well, she's got a nice, normal resting heart rate there,
around about 30.
In a normal situation, every one of these big deflections here,
which is the ventricular contraction,
should be nice and evenly spaced,
but you can see there that, you know, they're not all evenly spaced,
like this one here, for example,
the very early one, and that came in before it had any real right to.
Any horse can have the odd one of those, particularly after exercise,
but standing still in a stable, not doing much,
they should be very rare indeed,
but we've seen several just over these few minutes of recording now.
Horses with this kind of problem do recover uneventfully, thankfully.
We would normally institute a period of rest to allow
the heart to recover and gain its own normal rhythm again,
and thankfully the horse currently is going to be rested
for its leg injury, so it all comes at a good time,
in that respect, if there can be a good time for this kind of thing.
I think what we've found today
certainly could have been a lot worse.
-You know, and certainly most horses we see with this problem,
-you know, do tend to sort themselves out.
-So we can all stay in touch about it all, obviously, anyway...
..and see what, if anything, more needs doing, then.
-OK. Thank you.
-All right. No, you're welcome.
-All right, Madam? Nice to meet you.
Go back to your hay.
-She's been a model patient with us.
-Nice to see you, Becky.
-Bye, Layla. Bye, now. Take care.
Andy believes, given time, the heart will repair itself,
but what about the collapse?
He felt that it was probably not related to her cardiac problem,
so that's something else that's in the background
that we're going to keep an eye on.
We're hoping that the future is bright for Layla.
She may just have to come back for a slightly lower level of competition,
depending how things go over the next three to four months.
I'm really pleased, because I was very worried about her.
I've had a pretty rough week - not a lot of sleep, panicking -
but, yeah, I'm much more relaxed with her now.
Over the past few weeks,
we've opened up a window into the life of rural vets.
As well as treating all kinds of animals,
a huge part of the job is to put minds at rest.
It's clear that if there's one thing shared by vets,
farmers and owners alike,
it's how much they care for the incredible creatures
in our countryside.
Who's a good boy, eh?
MATT: Tom's been hearing about illegal abattoirs,
where animals are slaughtered without any official checks,
leaving potentially unsafe meat to enter the food chain.
You might find some of this report upsetting.
Our high streets were once a thriving mix of
small, independent traders -
the baker, the grocer and the butcher,
and to serve that butcher, a local abattoir,
but times have changed.
More red tape, higher charges and tougher regulations
are making life hard for small abattoirs.
That's led to hundreds closing down and, as we've seen in some cases,
illegal abattoirs have taken their place,
but I'm visiting one of the good guys.
John Mettrick and his brother, Steven,
are the fifth generation of the family to run this business,
an abattoir and butchery on the edge of the Peak District.
Today, six lambs are being slaughtered.
Cheers. Thank you very much.
-I'll just give that to the vet.
The whole process is overseen by a vet.
All right, and the belly, please.
They're stunned and then shackled before being killed.
I've come round to the clean side, and that means hygiene clothing.
The fleece is taken off and the offal removed.
So this is how small abattoirs work -
they process animals in small groups, a few at a time.
They don't process large numbers,
so a typical group of six for a small farmer.
This is what we process.
The carcasses are then checked, stamped and chilled,
before being cut.
So, what's it like running a small abattoir these days?
It's very hard to make it pay.
A lot of small abattoirs are closing
because they're finding it so difficult.
The overheads are an absolute killer.
I think what we're after really is for somebody
to look at the regulations and actually say,
"Well, how could these regulations be simplified so that
"small abattoirs can survive and they're not buried under paperwork?"
In the end, don't customers care most about hygiene
and the safety of their food,
and maybe that's best delivered by a bigger abattoir?
Well, I would suggest that, like, the reason we have all these,
these regulations, is because the large abattoirs
and the large meat processors in general
have such long, convoluted supply chains,
and so you need an awful lot of paperwork
to actually keep all that in check,
and we've found with horse meat and things that
these things can fall down very easily.
We can stand behind our meat and say exactly where it's come from,
how the farmer's reared it, how it's been slaughtered,
how it's been hung,
so we've got the confidence to stand behind our meat, and the meat that
comes through here for others as well,
and say we know everything about it.
But, unless something changes,
abattoirs like this one could be in trouble,
and others are worried too.
The Sustainable Food Trust,
who campaign for local and more sustainable food,
are releasing a report highlighting their concerns.
They're warning that
the UK's network of small abattoirs
is in danger of collapse.
I'm meeting Bob Kennard, one of the authors,
and we're trying some burgers from the abattoir I've just visited.
If things stay the same as they are now,
or in the same direction of travel,
how bad could it up for local abattoirs?
Well, there is a point of no return,
and I think we're very close to that now.
There's swathes of the country already where there's no available
abattoir for farmers to bring their animals to be killed,
and that will just expand.
And what would it mean to you if the destiny you fear came to pass?
Well, it would be a tragedy from all sorts of points of view.
Not only would there be a hit to local food, which would disappear,
rather than grow,
but also there would be the effects on the environment,
with longer distances for animals to travel -
that has animal welfare implications -
and then there's the local economy.
What would you like to see happen?
We want first of all for the Government to acknowledge,
as they have in the past,
that these smaller abattoirs have a really important function.
We want to be able to look at the idea of mobile abattoirs,
because that might be one of the solutions.
And then the biggest point, I guess,
is to establish a task force to really look at this problem.
This is just getting progressively worse.
There comes a point where you will not have local meat.
These ideas might not stamp out illegal behaviour entirely,
but they could take a market away from criminals
and help ensure the meat we eat is safe and welfare-friendly.
When it comes to the slaughtering of animals,
-there is no excuse for illegality.
It's frequently dirty and potentially dangerous,
but many smaller abattoirs are finding it hard to cope with
new regulations and stay in business.
The future of locally-sourced meat could depend on
solving this dilemma.
Today, I'm with alpaca farmer Ingrid,
but we're not staying on the farm for long,
as we're off for a trip out.
But first, we've got to catch the chosen few.
-Do you want me to catch him for you?
-Oh, well done. That was excellent.
Stand, stand, stand.
There, now. Steady.
There's a good boy, eh?
Gorgeous. We now need Starbreaker.
We do, and he is this white one in the middle.
-So, walk in, little introduction?
Starbreaker, I'm Matt Baker. How are you?
Steady. Stand, stand...
-Good boy. There's a good boy.
-And there's the head collar on.
-We'll just clip you on there, buddy.
-There you go.
-There we are.
Good boy, good boy, good boy, good boy...
Now, newborn alpacas are very vulnerable
in their first few hours of life, but there is a way to help them,
and that is why we're taking Starbreaker and Wizard
to a very unusual event.
All will be revealed very shortly.
Come on. There's a good boy.
Right, well, while we head off,
Adam is in north Wales with a farmer who's working with
some very special sheepdogs.
Upland farming is a tough gig for even
the most experienced of farmer,
so if you're new to it up here,
then it's a really steep learning curve
and you need all the help you can get,
and sometimes four legs is better than two.
-Dogs from New Zealand...
-And now sit down!
..sheep from the Scottish Borders,
and a freshfaced bloke from England who's farming here in Mid Wales.
It might sound a bit of a muddle, but 25-year-old Matt Launder has
been making it work since taking on this farm
near Welshpool six years ago.
-How are you doing? You all right?
-Goodness me, it's a bit raw up here.
-It's a bit rare, isn't it?
-How are you doing?
-Nice to see you.
-Izzy, come here.
-Iz, come on.
-I understand you're a Gloucester boy, aren't you?
-What brought you up to Wales?
-Opportunity of land, really.
Too expensive for me to get a farm in Gloucestershire
and there was just, you know,
there's more segments of ground to buy up here,
so the farm became available and off we moved.
And are you from a farming background?
Not farming at all, no.
Apart from Mum who had horses and a bit of ground, no,
we were living in a council house.
And is it something you've always wanted to do
-from when you were a little boy?
It's been like an itch, an incurable itch,
right down from when I was really small
and I had my toy Britains farm set,
and, you know, no-one could watch TV for me combining a carpet field.
And when did you get your first livestock?
So, my first livestock came... That was when I...
On my 13th birthday, my mum and my sister came together,
and they bought me six Jacob ewe lambs.
On my 14th birthday, I got a Jacob ram,
and then it's just grown from there, really,
and I think by the time I finished my GCSEs,
I had about 150 ewes, roughly.
It kept building up, building up and now I've got a real farm...
-..so, you know, even in weather
like this, I'm kicking myself that I get to be a farmer.
You know, it wasn't maybe my destiny to begin with,
but now I can't believe it. It's amazing.
Taking on a 500-acre upland farm with 1,000 Cheviot ewes
is pretty impressive stuff for a first-generation farmer,
but Matt's not doing it all on his own.
He's got two trusty mates to help him.
-So, two New Zealand huntaways.
-Why did you choose them?
With my inexperience, I was looking for an animal which would be
easy to train, and they've got a lot of natural instinct as a dog.
And how do they cope with this kind of terrain?
In New Zealand, they're hill dogs. They're working out of sight dogs.
They love this terrain.
The way that this dog can clamber up a bank is amazing,
the power they have.
They can deal with the temperatures, climate and weather.
-They're really good for it.
-What are their names?
So, we've got Molly, she's the older dog,
just turned three now, and then we've got Izzy,
and Izzy's literally just coming one.
These are some of my closest friends, these two.
They're members of the workforce.
They're not like a quad bike or something like that -
they're a team member.
My day-to-day work wouldn't be done without these.
You know, these are the real farm managers here.
They're absolutely gorgeous. I've always loved them.
Come on, then, let's see them in action.
Matt's using Molly, his more experienced dog,
to run the flock down the hill to the sorting yard.
Sit down. Speak up.
Matt's doing a really good job of gathering the flock with Molly,
She's barking away, full of enthusiasm.
The last time I saw huntaways in action was a little while ago
when I was in New Zealand,
but it's great to see them being put to good use here on
the Welsh hills.
The huntaway has recently started to become more in demand in the UK
but the Border collie is still undoubtedly the most popular breed
when it comes to working sheep.
The huntaway works very differently to a Border collie.
A collie will be casting out wide, low to the ground, in silence,
whereas the huntaway is full of energy,
-bouncing around, lots of noise.
When you've got wide open spaces like this and a big flock of sheep,
when you've got a dog barking,
the sheep all know there's a dog in the field,
and they flock together and then start to move,
and Molly, there, she's got a great bark.
You can hear it echoing through the valley.
-She's great, isn't she?
-Wonderful, isn't she? yeah.
How did you learn how to work a huntaway?
Most of it is watching YouTube clips on the internet,
and I got a DVD flown over from New Zealand,
and I've watched that, really,
and then just picked up everything I can on the go.
So where does the huntaway come from, then?
So, whereas a collie works around you or brings the sheep to you,
the huntaway is pushing the sheep away from you,
so she's driving them, so she's hunting them away.
It's very handy at lambing time as well.
I can stand in the corner of the field with her,
and she'll bark away, and the sheep will take their lambs
and move away from the barking to the next field
or the next paddock at their own speed,
so there's no stress and there's no pressure on the animal.
Rather than the collie working up behind them,
and the ewes turning on the dog to protect their lambs and all that?
-Go on, then, get her to bark up again.
That'll do, wait. Come here! Come here! That'll do.
Over time, sheep get familiar with the way dogs work them,
so, although the barking sounds quite fierce,
-the ewes are more than used to it.
All Matt's ewes are pregnant and have recently been scanned,
but he's yet to group them up into singles, twins and triplets,
so I'm going to give him a hand.
With a bit of extra help, of course,
this time from Izzy, Matt's second huntaway bitch that's in training.
Whilst Izzy learns the ropes, I'll manage the shedding gate.
-And what are they like in the yards?
In the yards, they're great. They're a real tool.
In a yard this size, you want a couple of people helping you
but, with one huntaway, you can get through a lot of sheep in a day.
Brilliant. You've got her on a bit of string?
I've got her on a piece of string.
That's just so I can... I just want to slow her down slightly.
Just ease her into sheep cos she's keen,
-so she doesn't run at the sheep, so she works from a distance.
Right, shall I go on the sorting gate?
You jump on the gate.
Yes. Good dog. Yes.
All right, good dog, good dog, good dog, good dog, good dog...
We're flying through them!
With all the ewes grouped, it's time to get them back out on the hills.
She's really keen, isn't she?
-Oh, she's mad to get involved in the sheep straight away.
-And is she related to Molly?
-Yeah, she's Molly's niece.
-Yeah, so I'm trying to keep...
You know, I've got the idea, when I'm 60,
I'm still working a relation of Molly.
I'm really impressed by how Matt has followed his dream.
He's got himself some land, a fantastic flock of sheep
and some lovely dogs and, because he's got that
youth and determination and passion on his side,
I really think he's going to make a success of this place.
-From deep wooded valleys to wide open moorland,
looming crags of limestone to millstone grit,
Derbyshire's Peak District has something for everyone.
And the High Peaks have their own speciality -
they call it weaselling.
It's sort of like potholing,
but obviously this is on the surface,
and the idea is that you squeeze and navigate your way
through these gritstone outcrops.
The Edale Activity Centre welcomes schoolchildren from all over.
This lot have come all the way from a primary school in Leicestershire.
It's their first taste of weaselling.
Instructors Neil McDonald and Peter Egan will be showing them the ropes.
What about me?
Hang on, she's almost there!
I think we look like we're ready for action.
Jump on the bus, then.
Are you exited?
Right, let's see... Mind your feet.
Right, togged up and strapped in,
we're off to the heart of the national park,
and a place where the landscape is just right for would-be weaslers.
OK, then, guys, so, when you get out,
just come and stand down here for us, yeah?
-That's great. Fantastic.
-Don't sit on me.
Come on, out you come.
There's snow on the ground and it's mighty chilly,
but this group is raring to go.
OK, so our first little activity that we're going to do,
just to get ourselves warmed up, is a little bit of rock hopping -
essentially like you guys would call The Floor Is Lava.
So the aim is that you can't touch the mud, OK?
You can only go on these rocks.
Right, you lead the way.
I'm following your path now.
Brilliant, and then if you keep coming across,
so that you come to here where I'm stood...
That's it. Watch out for any icy bits.
If I find an icy bit, I'll tell you.
So, what's the idea of this exercise, then?
Well, first of all, it's a great warm-up for the kids.
It's great for the environment as well,
so staying on the rocks is a lot better for the erosion.
So it's a game, but it's actually beneficial to the environment?
Absolutely, yeah. Yep.
Beautiful, and a little bit more energetic than I expected.
Normally I'd wander around a place like this
and sort of take in the landscape and say, "Wow, it's beautiful."
You bring a load of eight-year-olds and you up the ante.
That's it, and again.
Excellent. There you go.
Good work, guys. That's it. Keep going.
Finish off those few last little rocks.
Now to Higger Tor, one of the Peak District's most impressive outcrops.
Inside, it's a maze carved out by the weather -
the perfect spot for the main event.
This is the start of the weaselling, all right? Are you ready?
-Are we excited?
-On a scale of one to ten?
-Let's weasel! Come on.
Uh, right, I think we're all set.
Come on, then, up here, then. Follow me.
So, that's it.
-That's it. Keep them coming.
OK, so it's obviously a bit of scrambling first to get in there.
Nice and steady.
-In you go. Neil, we're just coming through now!
That's it, one after each other.
Give a little bit of space, cos you don't want to stand on each other.
Well done, young man. That's it.
A big jump. Hey, that's it.
-Come on, Helen.
-It does look quite snug, doesn't it?
Right, I'm going in. Is headfirst the tactic?
You've got to work it out.
It's not often you wish you were three foot tall!
Well, it's cosy in there.
Is this actually an activity or is it just playing and adventuring?
I don't think you really find this kind of level of boulders
anywhere else in the country, and we just explore the area, really.
It's just a good, fun thing to do.
It's easy to see how this activity got its name -
weaselling perfectly describes what we're all doing.
I don't think anywhere else calls it weaselling
outside of the Peak District.
So what does it technically involve?
Just a bit of guts, really,
and just having a look at it and giving it a go.
You'll be surprised what you can actually get through, you know,
when you look at the shape of the hole
and think about the best way to go through.
I love it - weaselling.
Look... Are you all right?
Who said telly's not glamorous?
Brilliant. Well done.
-Very gracefully done, there, Helen.
-I know! I'm so elegant.
The kids make it look so easy.
You've got to work out how to fit your head through, then.
That's it. Well done, Hannah. Keep on going.
I can go through a really tiny door like that.
After the weaselling, a final bit of scrambling,
watched over by deputy head Steph Allen.
Wow, I mean, those kids are fearless, aren't they?
They really are, yeah.
You do have to keep an eye on them
cos they're kind of scrambling everywhere.
What do they get out of it?
There's a really great sense of teamwork,
so encouraging each other through the rocks.
There's lots of children who overcome fears as well.
You'll see all the smiles on the children's faces today,
it's things that we don't necessarily see in the classroom.
After three, everybody say "weasels".
One, two, three...
Well, all that scrambling around has certainly
kept the cold at bay, just about.
Let's see if the weather is going to pick up.
Here's the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
I'm in Derbyshire at just one of a growing number of
alpaca farms in the country.
From just a few hundred animals back in the late '80s,
there are now reckoned to be more than 50,000 alpacas in the UK.
With a growing national herd,
there's real focus on protecting the next generation.
Baby alpacas, called cria, are born without antibodies.
Unless they get them from their mother's milk when they're
first born, they become prone to serious infection, even death.
Fay Pooley is a vet who's organised a special event at her practice that
could save these newborns' lives.
Alpaca owners have been invited to donate blood
from their adult animals.
This blood is rich in antibodies.
The idea is to store it up, just in case it's needed by the cria.
I'm with Ingrid Ruston, along with her alpacas Wizard and Starbreaker.
-Shall we get them into position?
And we'll try and keep this as calm and relaxed
-as possible, no doubt.
-Right, we're in your hands, Fay.
-OK. We'll go over.
The blood we collect from Starbreaker today
will also go into storage.
It'll provide Ingrid with her own emergency supply.
We'll just have a quick listen to his heart...
-..and this is just basically to check he's nice and healthy,
so he's not going to feel like passing out afterwards,
you know, like we do when we give blood.
-Or I do, anyway.
There's a good lad.
Just doing heart and lungs, have a quick listen...
Good boy. So, that's all fine.
He actually sounds nice and relaxed.
-His heart rate's not really up at all, which is good.
Once he's passed the medical,
Starbreaker is prepared for the main event,
and that means shaving off some of that glorious fleece.
-It might take a while to
get all this fluff out, though. Good boy.
Make sure you keep that.
I've been finding out what you can do with that.
Yeah, you can make something out of it!
I have actually got my alpaca socks on today
cos they're, like, the warmest things known to man.
Right, lovely. I think that'll do for the clipping.
Sticking to me. OK, are we ready?
Next, the tricky bit.
Here comes the needle.
There, now what a good lad.
What a good boy.
I've got a gentle grip on Starbreaker to make sure
he's as still as possible.
It'll take about ten minutes to take his blood.
What a clever boy.
-Are we still going up?
-Yeah, it's still going in.
I see, so you're weighing the bag,
so you can see that it's still flowing.
So we see when we've got enough blood.
-Steady, steady, pal.
About half a litre will be taken from each of the animals here today.
The blood is then sent for processing at the Pet Blood Bank,
a charity based in Loughborough.
When that's done, it's safe to be kept in the freezer on the farm.
-What a good boy. Steady.
-Can you just...?
-Do you mind holding the pressure on that for me?
-That's a good lad.
Job done, and time to relax.
Come on, then.
-He's like," I'm going to run!"
Who's next in the surgery?
-MATT HUMS A MERRY TUNE
There's a good boy.
So, Fay, one down.
-It went very smoothly.
-And I guess the whole idea with this, then,
is just to spread the word and let owners know that
-this service is available.
-Yeah. It's available.
And I guess, for vets as well,
there's not a lot of vets that do a lot of alpaca work
because it's quite niche.
And hopefully they'll say it's awesome,
and we get more alpaca vets around the place,
and more events like this going on, really.
-Yep, good. All right, then. Well, let's get on with Wizard.
-This one here, Arabian Night.
-Arabian Night, yeah.
-He's raring to go.
Yeah, don't worry, buddy, we'll be round to you very shortly.
OK, let's get in the stable.
Come on, then.
Fay and her team have a few hours left to do.
Time for us, though, to get back to Ingrid's farm
and return Starbreaker and Wizard to the fold.
Well, I have to say, well done for doing your bit for future alpacas.
Do you know what? It seems that this generation of alpacas are certainly
at home here in the Amber Valley,
but that's all we've got time for from the Derbyshire countryside.
Helen, what's happening next week?
Well, now, next week,
I will be in Northumberland at the mighty Kielder Water,
finding out how the wet stuff shapes our lives.
I hope you can join us then. Bye-bye.
Matt Baker and Helen Skelton are in Derbyshire, where Matt is exploring the boom in farming alpacas. He meets Ingrid Rushton, one of the first people in the UK to own them, and visits a blood transfusion drop-in for alpacas where owners have come from all over the region bringing their animals to donate blood which could save baby alpaca's lives.
Helen tries her hand at 'weaselling', the latest craze to sweep the Peaks. It is a kind of potholing that happens above ground and joins a party of schoolchildren who squeeze in and out of the rocky tors that dot the landscape. She also meets countryside champion Yvonne Witter, who has made it her mission to get more people from ethnic backgrounds into our countryside.
Tom Heap looks at illegal abattoirs and asks if the meat on our plates is what we think it is, and Adam is in north Wales meeting the farmer using a special type of working dog to manage his livestock.