Farmer Focus: Looking at a prolonged period of uncertainty

It has been quite a month for British farming and indeed the nation as a whole.

However, I will start with what’s been happening on the farm.

Lambs are growing really well, with average gains at 2.5kg/week. I managed to send the first load of April-born away last week and capitalise on the strong price.

Grass growth and quality have been good with ewes still in tremendous condition and several paddocks being shut up for silage, which will be sold to a neighbouring farm.

Calves are growing well and we have just taken in a fresh batch of Friesian bulls which have benefitted from being fed on cow’s milk prior to arrival, so have had a good start.

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The decision for the UK to leave the EU came as quite a shock and has put many of us in what’s looking like a prolonged period of uncertainty.

In the short term, we may benefit from the weaker pound and probably won’t see a great deal of difference in terms of trade.

However, in the longer term I think it is going to have a severe impact on British farming, especially for tenant farmers and the younger generation.

We are going to find it harder to export products like lamb. The weakened economy is also going to push up inflation and affect domestic consumption, as it will be harder for people to justify buying expensive meats, which is a real concern.

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I also think it is going to be hard for an independent government to justify continuing to subsidise farmers, as the money will be needed elsewhere.

Further to this, it is undoubtedly going to be more difficult to borrow money to reinvest or expand.

The only way I can see UK farming prosper from this is if we see a significant reduction in imported food.

Taking all of this into account, I am reluctant to expand the sheep enterprise as planned and think it’s going to be more sensible to build on my diversification enterprise so I have more of a safety net if we see hard times and will at least be able to continue to farm in some capacity.

It is not the situation I wanted to be in but we are where we are and I hope we all get the deal we deserve.

Jim Beary contract rears 900 calves a year and has a growing flock of Aberfield-cross New Zealand Romneys on a county council farm. He also runs a contract gritting enterprise in winter