Foot-and-mouth has prompted many in farming to
reconsider their future. Wendy Owen asks two
recently-qualified students from Bishop Burton about
their plans and whether the crisis has altered them
PETER Caley finished his HND in Agriculture at distinction level – the highest grade possible.
The 21-year-old now plans to further his qualifications by taking an honours degree at Harper Adams agricultural college in Shropshire this autumn. That means an extra 18 months of hard study but he is hoping to go on to become a farm business consultant.
"I always wanted to come back to the family farm but there is just not enough money to invest in expansion so that it can support me," he said.
"My father is only 41-years-old, so it will be a long time before I can take over and I need to find a career outside the farm. I have taken on the book-keeping and some of the financial planning and that has driven the message home that I have to find a career. I dont feel it would be wise for the business to borrow the money for expansion at this stage."
Peter travelled the 20 miles into college every day so in his spare time he could work on the familys East Yorks farm which has 48ha (118 acres) of arable land and 4000 finishing pigs a year. After news of the outbreak, which came as he was starting his second semester, he stayed at home and was sent assessments by post. He says he would have struggled without his own computer.
"The college tutors were very supportive but it was difficult for them to arrange things at such short notice. My father was sympathetic too, he realised my college work came first so I was able to cut down on the time I would usually spend working with him. It would have been too easy just to walk out on to the farm and get involved in a job that needed doing, instead of buckling down to my studies."
Peter was away from college for two months altogether but the agricultural students were allowed back on the campus for the last month of their studies. Once they returned, however, they were not allowed to visit home until the course finished.
"In the last few weeks at college, the workload increased and most of us were working from 7 oclock in the morning until 10 oclock at night to catch up.
"Foot-and-mouth hasnt put me off farming. I still have the drive Ive always had, but taking a degree should give me a good education so that I can be flexible if I am forced into varying from my goal. Every now and then I do ask myself why I stay involved in agriculture but I think thats true of any industry."
…still staying with father
WHEN Phillip Walmsley got a distinction in the National Diploma in Agriculture it surprised him – because foot-and-mouth severely disrupted his studies.
The 19-year-old from a 123ha (300 acres) mixed farm near Leeds was on a college trip to the SIMA agricultural show in Paris when he got news of the outbreak. As a live-in student, he was asked to return home immediately after the show had finished.
"The tutors kept in constant contact and sent work to us," he explained. "They even set up a system to allow us access to the college network from our own computers. They were quite strict on deadlines so I couldnt spend too much time helping on the farm. I usually worked outside in the daytime and did my college work in the evenings.
"But it was not the same as attending lectures and I feel I have missed out on a lot. I couldnt sit the practical exams on the veterinary and medicine part of the course."
Phillip intends to stay at home helping his father run the farm, eventually taking over the tenancy when he retires. He admits there will probably have to be some changes to make this possible, although nothing is decided yet.
"Being at college has opened my eyes and made me realise how much paperwork is involved in running a farm. I worked for an arable contractor as part of my practical experience and that gave me a feel for crops I wasnt used to. It also showed me that different farms have different ways of doing things.
"I would like to carry on and take the HND course but I am needed at home. But I might take a Higher National Certificate on a part-time basis."
Phillips own farm was under a form D restriction for some time and although there was plenty of feed for the livestock, the suckler herd breeding programme has been badly affected.
"Our suckler cows were stuck on another farm while the Limousin bull was at home with the heifers. We have had to use the other farms Simmental bull on our cows so we will have to see whether we like the type of calves produced.
"I dont think anyone could have been prepared for foot-and-mouth. Agriculture is going to have a big shake-up and whether that will bring about more restrictions on livestock movements I dont know. But I am still full of enthusiasm," he said.