Coronavirus puts new entrant’s beef enterprise in jeopardy

A young farmer from County Armagh who recently invested thousands of pounds in a new shed says the coronavirus pandemic has left him struggling to feed his cattle.

Aaron Taylor, 32, from Markethill, is a new entrant to farming and is building up a herd of cattle, with the aim of selling 160 head a year of finished beef.

He admits to being in a “tight place” right now and is concerned about his cattle.

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For the past year, Mr Taylor has also been working for a landscape gardening business three days a week to help feed the cattle and pay off the new shed, which cost more than £50,000.

Appeals for help

But since the coronavirus crisis closed down the gardening business almost overnight, he can no longer afford to buy feed and is appealing to the government for help.

“I’ve only been in farming for three years now and am starting to build up a beef herd,” Mr Taylor explained.

“I had to sell off 10 head at the end of last year to help pay for the new shed, but I still owe more than £20,000 for it.

“I’m left with 30 head here that I need to feed as they are not out on the grass yet, but since all the gardening work has dried up, I have no cash left to buy feed for them,” he said.

Causing further headaches, Mr Taylor’s local livestock mart is now closed and his herd is also currently closed down awaiting a TB test.

“It’s a real nightmare,” he said. “I need financial help, but when I first contacted the benefits office, they mentioned I could get about £90 per week, which is no use to anyone.

Mr Taylor’s elderly father lives with him and he is very concerned the poor cashflow, together with the current pandemic, will cause more stress to his dad, who already has health issues.

Financial lifeline

Late on Tuesday afternoon (24 March), Mr Taylor received a bit of a lifeline.

“I managed to contact Universal Credit, who asked for my date of birth and national insurance number.

“They said they would put about £320 in my account to help and then £90/week after two weeks’ time.

“Unfortunately, they also said they had no details regarding any further financial assistance to self-employed people, but will keep me posted.

“I have no real idea if this means – I am on proper benefits now or not? I am probably not the only one in this situation,” he said.