Farmer Focus: Ski trip shows value of subsidy to Swiss uplands

As we write this month’s piece, there is snow on the ground, at least 18in, temperature is about -8C, visibility fair and it’s almost perfect conditions. We are skiing in Wengen, Switzerland, and have just about forgotten what we have been doing at home.  

We had a really good clear out before we left for Switzerland, with more than 800-head of sheep being sold and 40 fat cattle to Dovecote Park.

It’s good for the bank balance to get them away but life is also made easier with less stock on the farm.

Bank balance boost

We finally received our Basic Payment Scheme money at the end of January so the bank balance will be looking significantly healthier than recent months.

See also: James Dyson defends his £1.6m farm subsidy receipts

When we get back there will be ewes to scan and all those in lamb will be treated for fluke. Cows will be Johne’s tested and will receive their clostridial booster vaccine the week after we scan the ewes.  

Calves need their routine blood test for the Scotland’s Rural College premium cattle health scheme for BVD Free. At the same time any horned Herefords will be dehorned.

The last of the hoggs have gone on to the remaining field of brassicas. Any left once this has been grazed will be housed and finished on wholecrop and red clover silage.


It’s a good job the bank balance is looking more positive as the fencers are coming shortly to renew 4km of fencing.  

The hens are doing well and very soon our second flock will hatch. We’ve just ordered some trees to replace those that didn’t make it on the ranges.

From Geneva, we travelled to Wengen on a three-hour train ride, doing a bit of farm spotting.

It is clear to see the level of investment that goes into these Swiss farms, both big and small. The smaller, more traditional farms up in the uplands are still here and viable.

Farm minister George Eustice highlighted the Swiss system as a possible example for us to follow post Brexit – let’s keep reminding him of this. 

Simon Bainbridge farms a 650ha upland organic farm with 160 suckler cows, 1,500 breeding ewes and 12,000 organic laying hens with his wife, Claire, and his parents. Healthy, maternal livestock and quality feed is a priority.