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Dorset farmers face difficult times
FARMERS in the south west are facing one of their toughest ever starts to the year, according to a regional insurer.
Cornish Mutual, which has more than 24,000 members in Dorset and the south west, said poor forage, high feed costs and one of the wettest years on record have resulted in financial difficulties and poor animal well-being.
Outgoing NFU Dorset chairman Robert Lasseter, who farms pigs at Friar Waddon, said the problems were not just a case of ‘pessimistic farmers’.
He said: “This is one of the worst years I have known, and the weather has been pretty unprecedented.
“It is a complex problem, and it is something that is affecting other businesses as well, but it is making life very difficult for farmers this spring.”
Summer deluges have impacted on silage quality, so farmers are having to bring in supplementary feed, for which prices are high because of poor yields due to bad weather.
And the problem is affecting livestock farmers across the board, with poor forage being blamed for falls in milk yields and cattle to produce enough beef. Poor quality and quantity of grazing is also an issue for sheep farmers, as well as the practicalities of tending flocks and managing lambing.
Philip Wilson, Cornish Mutual field force manager, said: “The combination of problems farmers are having to deal with right now is causing real distress.
“Soil quality is affected due to soluble nutrients being washed away by the rain, which has affected the quality and quantity of fodder, and on top of that, feed prices are high globally.
“Farmers feel they have no choice but to winter cattle indoors for longer due to the rain and risk of damage to waterlogged fields by grazing cattle, which they feel could affect their Single Farm Payment for the upkeep of the land.”
He added: “There’s no doubt animal wellbeing has suffered as a result of the weather, and this is reflected in the reports of reduced milk yields and animals coming to market showing signs of the poor quality of the grass and forage they have been eating.”
For farming advice, visit defra.gov.uk/food-farm/animals/ welfare/weather or environment -agency.gov.uk/business/sectors /135941.aspx l THE comments come as the Royal Agricultural College announced farmland prices in the region hit their highest ever rate in the last part of 2012.
The average price per acre for farmland in the south west is £6,875, and surveyors believe the increase is due to increased demand and a lack of land.