As those who work in agriculture know, anything can happen when you’re out on a farm and there are millions of ways strange, funny or even scary things can happen.
Whether it’s sly collie dogs, demanding clients, trigger-happy landowners or just simply the rain and muck, professionals working in the field are up against a fair few odds.
We asked land agents, auctioneers and lawyers to share their most funny, strange or memorable experiences of working in farming. Here are their best.
A case of mistaken identity
On yet another busy day at Melton Mowbray Market an auction regular, Mr Wilson, had brought some cattle and was hoping to top the market and get his name in the weekly report.
As usual his trusty black-and-white collie dog was with him.
When it came to the time of sale he, as always, stood behind me to watch proceedings.
Bidding got underway and during the sale I got a tap on my welly, which I thought meant he might want a bit more money for them, so I took his bid and the buyers responded.
This happened several times and I thought to myself that he was expecting rather a lot for these livestock, but the owner knows best, so I kept going.
Well he stopped and another bid came and they were sold. I turned around to Mr Wilson and said: “You were lucky there sir, I thought you weren’t going to stop”.
Mr Wilson replied: “I didn’t bid Martin.” We both looked down to see his very happy collie dog who had been tapping my wellies with his tail.
Now I know collie dogs are clever, but I never thought they knew about the value of cattle.
Martin Shouler, consultant, Shouler & Son
A way with words
I have spent many years talking to farmers and learned never to underestimate anyone, but I have encountered one or two malapropisms that have made me smile.
After getting out of my car in a farmyard one day and being approached by a fierce-looking Alsatian, the farmer emerged from the house at the sound of the dog barking and announced:
“Don’t worry, he won’t bite you, but he does make a good detergent.”
Alastair Sneddon, senior partner, Bagshaws at Bakewell Market
Careful what you wish for
When trying to obtain planning consent for a new cattle yard for a dairy farmer, I proposed grey roof sheets and sidewalls, but the planners were insistent on the rather more expensive coloured sheets.
After much argument, the council was finally persuaded that lichen would quickly grow on the grey roof sheets if a dressing of manure was applied.
The planning consent was in due course received – with the condition that an appropriate mix of manure and water be applied “by an employee of Strutt & Parker”.
George Chichester, partner, farm and estate management, Strutt & Parker
Making an impression
When I was fresh out of law school I represented a farmer in court one morning, and was dressed in a new shirt and suit with my best polished shoes.
That afternoon I was unexpectedly and urgently called to see a new farming client in a dispute about his failed crop. As I travelled to the farm, the weather took an almighty turn for the worse.
It began raining cats and dogs with gale force winds and blistering hail – it must have been the worst that the heavens could throw at the Earth.
I arrived and the farmer insisted I walk the field with him. I had no umbrella, no change of clothes and no wellies, but in the line of duty and eager to impress, I put on my best brave face and marched out with him.
We must have spent 30 minutes or so inspecting the field, by the end of which I had thick mud up to my knees, a rain-drenched suit that had quadrupled in weight and the look of a dirty drowned rat.
After 14 years of advising farmers you will now never find me without wellies, a rain jacket and a change of clothes in the boot of my car.
Russell Reeves, partner, Thrings
I inspected an unmarked boundary on a property in February – a straight line between two existing strainer posts. By June, the farm was under offer and the buyers insisted the boundary was marked before exchange and wanted to witness the pegging.
I got to the woodland to be confronted with 6ft-high bracken – I’m 5’3, so this was a problem – and the purchaser, wearing a lovely dress.
Within minutes she decamped to go and get her “gardener with a strimmer, back in 20 minutes”.
Over an hour and a half later, I had swum through the bracken myself, most of it was inside my clothes and I had (heroically) cleared a sight line from post to post.
I pegged it and measured it. For the first time in memory, it was EXACTLY the same length as the measurement on the plan. The buyer returned just as I was winding up my tape.
Sarah Parsons, partner, Strutt & Parker
While undertaking a valuation in Somerset, my client asked me if I would mind helping to feed his sheep during the site inspection as he would be taking me to their field anyway.
Little did I know the field was a substantial distance from the farmyard and he got me to carry a rather large sack of feed the whole way.
To make matters worse, we had to climb through a barbed-wire fence en route, which the farmer kindly held down for his wife to climb through but let go of when I was halfway over, resulting in a nice rip through my trousers up to the crotch!
I haven’t offered to help feed sheep on a site inspection since.
A mucky business
As a relatively young land agent, I was involved in the sale of a large farm, complete with house, cottages and a tidy shoot. It was the pick of all the farms available in the county that year.
Our client was a man of high expectations and, luckily, we somehow found an equally strong-willed buyer who would pay top dollar.
My senior partner and I met at the farm with both parties. Settling the price for growing crops, diesel in the tanks and hay in the barn was tricky, but we successfully reached an agreement.
This just left the large pile of farmyard manure in the corner of one of the fields.
Our client was adamant that it was of great value and he expected £250 for it. The buyer was equally adamant that he wasn’t going to pay a penny for a pile of sheep muck on a multimillion-pound sale. He invited the seller to cart it away if it was so valuable.
They locked horns with neither budging for what seemed an age, until my senior partner pulled out his wallet and started counting out £10 notes. “I’ll pay for the !£$%^&* muck,” he huffed.
Both parties immediately realised that they were making fools of themselves and quickly found a resolution – I think it involved a few bottles of fine wine.
The sale went through as planned and my senior partner kept his money.
David Jones, partner and head of agency, Robinson & Hall
Pleased to meet you
I was carrying out a valuation and, as usual, when attending on farm there are the requisite ‘ferocious’ guard dogs to greet you.
Luckily, having been brought up on a sheep farm with dogs I was not worried, so stepped out of my car and bent down to greet the spaniels, one of which rolled over onto its back.
I did the natural thing and scratched its belly, but unfortunately the excited spaniel weed on my hand.
Just as it happened, the farmer approached me with outstretched hand and, not wanting to appear rude on our first meeting and embarrassingly explain why I couldn’t shake his hand, I (very shamefully) continued to pat the dog’s belly, wiping my hand in the process, and then shook his hand.
He then proceeded to apologise for his filthy hands. I inwardly cringed and said “Don’t worry”!
The antibacterial hand gel I keep in my car was gladly deployed before driving off.
Jenna Goodall Browne, rural associate, TW Gaze
You never know when you’ll need a tow
Years ago I negotiated a rent review on a block of land that went against the tenant. Later, I was instructed to sell this land and serve notice.
One wet evening I had to inspect the land and, being in my trusty Subaru, I decided to drive.
I drove through two gateways, the second being very wet. I continued thinking there must be a gate at the bottom – there wasn’t!
Trying to get back up, I got completely stuck. I tried a few local farmers to no avail and reluctantly had to call the tenant to ask if he could tow me out.
I can vividly recall the glee in his wife’s voice as she said to her husband: “It’s that Mr Willmington and he’s stuck up the field”.
Ross Willmington, partner of farm agency and agricultural, Symonds and Sampson
Roll with it
In my first month in practice I was taken by the senior partner to visit two elderly brothers who farmed in partnership. It was explained that they were long-standing clients of the firm, but they did not get on. We had to step carefully between them.
Nevertheless, when we pulled into the yard it came as a great surprise to find two seventy-year-olds rolling about in the dust, punching each other.
It turned out that one of the brothers had put some plants for his garden through the farm books. For the other brother, this was the last straw and all the resentments of the decades came flooding out.
I cannot remember why we were visiting these clients, but before we left we had negotiated the division of the farm.
Each brother took one of the houses and some of the buildings, the livestock and machinery were shared out, a fence was erected down the middle of the yard and across the fields and they farmed happily as neighbours for the remainder of their days.
David Jones, partner and head of agency, Robinson & Hall
Get off my land!
Following a lengthy dispute between a farmer and her builder I received instructions via court order to sell some of the farmer’s land.
The farmer had a reputation locally for being rather verbal and belligerent. I prepared sale particulars with photographs and, out of courtesy, forwarded her the particulars. We have all received threats, but the following ensued:
(in a Dorset accent)
“Were you on my land? If I had known you were there I would have been up there with my shotgun. It’s my land and I ain’t selling it.”
“If I can’t shoot you, I’ll report you to the police for trespassing.”
“I have reported you to the local paper.”
We duly sold the land, followed by months of nuisance calls to myself, the solicitor and the buyer. You can imagine what she said six months later when the buyer ploughed up her hallowed pasture and planted maize…
Andrew Tuffin, head of farm agency, Symonds & Sampson
Things you don’t expect to hear
A few years ago there was a group of residential home owners who wished to buy some land adjoining their gardens from the neighbouring farmer.
I was acting on behalf of the farmer and had negotiated the sale value and terms with each owner and the sale was proceeding through the solicitors.
I attended on site in November to measure and mark out the agreed boundaries. One of the purchasers came out of their house and asked me how much longer it was going to take because “I have my pet dog in the freezer and we want to bury him in the new land!”
Presumably they wanted to make room for the Christmas turkey, too!
Jenna Goodall Browne, rural associate, TW Gaze