As one of the farmer representatives in the ongoing Tomlinsons Dairies administration process, Ian Garnett has been unable to write his usual article this month.
However, his partner Su Mills gives an insight into how the saga is affecting life on-farm...
Ian is unexpectedly tied up with lots of last minute meetings, but hopefully normal service will be resumed soon.
Unfortunately, the dairy which takes our milk has gone into administration and Ian, while being part of a family farm which is one of the creditors, is also one of the farmer representatives for the group of producers affected.
Hopefully there will be some positive learnings from such a difficult situation. As the vast majority of most dairy farmers’ income seems to come from a single customer and often paid every four to six weeks after goods are collected, perhaps our industry might consider shortening terms to fortnightly.
Perhaps it could also allocate monies into some kind of ‘client account’ for security, or even have some kind of creditor insurance (the opposite of invoice factoring) and so prevent the scale of this from happening again in future.
Using one’s suppliers’ goods as cashflow for a month seems very risky if the overall sums of money cannot be protected or secured in some way.
Putting these huge sums of money potentially at risk each month has maybe just continued from years ago when farms were much smaller, but perhaps the current industry has now outgrown it?
As I type this, the rain is coming down like stair-rods outside, which is splendid news for my campaign to avoid the ‘last mow of the season’ of our lumpy back lawn, but is yet more frustrating news for everyone here in Cheshire wanting to get the maize in.
All eyes have been on maize weather, with observations such as ‘well, it isn’t the middle of the month yet, so perhaps I should be more relaxed’, but I think this continued wet weather would try the patience of even the most laid-back farmer.
On a positive note, we went clear at our last TB test, which is great news, as it always feels like a huge ordeal.
With just more than 1,000-head to test, it is a very tense time for everyone on reading days and such a relief when the result goes the right way.
Our little one started school this September and it is great to be able to show all the classmates and their parents around our little slice of agriculture.
They all seem genuinely interested and amazed with what goes on and how their choices can drive change in the retail and farming worlds.
Brexit and the potential challenges it could bring for the farm was right up there with TB as the most common questions, but now how to pay our costs without our income arriving seems to have overtaken these.