Tuesday, March 25, 2014
In the first of a series of articles, KEITH DAVIS, regional director of Farming Community Network, looks at a typical case of a farmer in distress
Ken was really worried, as he had never known such an accumulation of setbacks that seemed to have hit the farm business all at once.
Ken and Janet had lived in one of the two farmhouses ever since Ken had inherited the 200 acre farm from his father 28 years ago. Their unmarried son, John, lived in the other one.
There was also a reasonable set of buildings, adequate for the beef suckler herd which was the main enterprise.
Ken was troubled by his arthritis which had suddenly deteriorated a couple of years ago.
Janet had never really got involved in the farm business, either on the land or in the office.
John didn’t seem suited to a life as a beef farmer. He helped out on the farm but was more interested in machinery than the livestock and used the farm as a base from which he earned a little income off-farm from engineering work.
The recent wet weather had taken its toll on the pasture and had meant that the cattle had been indoors for longer than usual – for the second year running, as the previous winter had been so long and cold. Stocks of both fodder and bedding were sparse.
With the cattle indoors, he had had to spend much more time looking after them and this had used up all his physical reserves. He was exhausted and in pain.
Finances had also been tight and Ken had decided to change the rations to a cheaper mix and cut back on grassland fertiliser.
That had seemed a sensible thing to do, but it meant that the youngstock were taking more time to reach selling weight.
He therefore had more stock on the farm than usual, resulting in a dual spiral of increased workload and reduced cash flow.
The final straw was the letter from the bank saying that has feed bill had been returned unpaid.
Clearly, something had to happen. His feed company was firm but supportive and gave Ken a card with the Farming Community Network (FCN) Helpline number on it.
Could he ask for help, or would his pride get in the way? And what could FCN do to help anyway? What a dilemma. Eventually, having no-one else to turn to, he decided to give it a go. He phoned FCN’s Helpline – 0845 367 9990.
TO BE CONTINUED
Ken is one of about 1000 farmers who called the FCN Helpline last year. His name and some details have been changed to protect his identity.