Farmer Focus: We’re all paddling like mad underneath

It’s interesting how your whole outlook can change in a very short space of time.

Only a couple of years ago prices were terrible and both the farm and the shop weren’t making any money.

The stock was still suffering from the “beast from the east” and our overdraft and borrowing was up for review. The bank was making me jump through hoops.

Like lots of other farmers, I was in a very dark place. I remember going to hear New Zealand farmer Doug Avery speak about mental resilience and thought, “he’s talking to me”. There is no doubt his presentation helped me a lot.

See also: 8 tips from Doug Avery on being a resilient farmer

He talks of getting quality people around you and working together like geese flying in a “V” formation. I know who is in my “V” and who to talk to when I need a boot up the backside or some encouragement.  

After Doug’s tour I spoke to a lot of farmers who I respect and admire greatly, and many had been very touched by Doug’s talk. It quickly became apparent that even those who seemed to be in control were in the same boat as me – calm on the surface but paddling like mad underneath.

My outlook has changed. I have decided to focus on the things I think I can make a half-decent job of (cattle) and I am ditching the things that cause me the most stress (sheep). 

I think my love of cattle stems from walking as a young lad beside my uncle, Stanley Bell, through a field of top-drawer finishing cattle and seeing the pride in his eyes as he described the key attributes of a particularly good beast.

My outlook has also been improved with the current prices and now that Brexit has actually happened and the world is still turning.

I am back to having no feeding bill and our shop and home delivery business has never been as busy. I am also giving the shop the time it needs and trying to stay out of the smaller stuff, as I now have a brilliant team.

The bank came through and gave me the money I needed to take the business forward. But most importantly, we are all healthy.

Michael Shannon finishes 150 head of mostly Angus beef stores each year and runs 280 Scotch Mules on a 100ha forage-only enterprise near Biggar, Lanarkshire, as well as free-range turkeys for Christmas. Meat is sold through his online business and farm shop Damn Delicious, with surpluses sold deadweight.