January 2019 Farming Updates

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Andy Jerrard writes: For the church, the season of advent, the time of waiting and preparation, is passed.  For most farmers we are still in that season - waiting, waiting to see how early the spring arrives for starters. An early spring will be an answer to many prayers as it will mean animals can be turned out and preparation for early silage cuts can start in earnest. These things will help alleviate the high costs of feed and straw. A kind October has helped, a dryish January has done no harm, therefore all that is needed for the three card trick is a warm early to mid-march onwards.”

Joanne Jones reports that milk prices have started to drop back but will hopefully now stabilise and not return to levels seen previously - a more stable price is needed rather than peaks and troughs to help farmers budget.  For many farmers, extra forage has needed to be purchased due to the dry weather - often at prices double to normal years. She also hopes for a good early spring and a favourable summer to build up feed reserves for winter 2019/20. However  a hard spring will help push up prices of milk and meat if there are shortages of supply! Colin Smallacombe adds that beef prices are back around 10p a kilo on the year, and lambs are about 20p a kilo up on last year at this time.

David Ursell reports that it has been much harder to finish(fatten) lambs, and many have been sold as stores (i.e. not finished with enough weight to be viable). As well as the high price he says if you are an organic farmer, then it is almost impossible to purchase forage - the reason is simply that organic farmers want to feed their own fodder back to their own livestock to enhance the fertility of their soils.

Last year’s summer heat has had lasting effects on free range chickens too. When put out from the broodery, the cockerels were slow to get the hang of using nipple drinkers, this has a long term effect on the level of fertility, hence a large drop in the number of chicks being produced.

Brexit: Joanne says that going forward, uncertainty over Brexit remains a key theme and whatever scheme replaces the current BPS is likely to result in further delays in payments during its early implementation stage causing further hardship. Andy adds “Sadly, the hoped for reduction in bureaucracy is not likely to happen. The prospects for increased exports hang on a knife-edge and the general outlook for agriculture as a whole is considerably uncertain - reflecting the whole the whole process of exiting the EU. There is no indication that the public good of producing food is going to be recognised in the immediate future, which is another dampener on optimism”, and Colin adds that with the Brexit uncertainty  and recent publicity about climate change and the health effects of meat consumption, milk and sugar, morale amongst farmers is quite low.

You can read Andy’s full winter farming update here.

Link to the Germinate Farming briefing for January here

We continue to pray for all our farmers and those who work on the land.