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Farming Matters: 'Working every day is good if you are able to do so'

I admit when it comes to farming that I am a control freak. I bet I am not the only one. It is difficult to let go of the reins when you invest everything into your business, writes Niall Blair.

I do not just mean financially, but also physically and mentally.

 

I know I should take more time off work and get away from the farm; the farming media (and common sense) tells me it is not healthy to work weeks (or months) on end without leaving the farm, but I am afraid that sometimes, especially for livestock farmers, it is just not economical to hire-in additional help.

 

Modern economics dictate I barely make a living wage while farming areas of land that a couple of decades ago supported two or three separate businesses and no doubt employed many more people.

 

Working every day is good if you are fit, healthy and able to do so. Unfortunately, I recently discovered that when you are not fit and healthy things become difficult.

 

Last week I had to undergo some unplanned surgery.

 

Since then I have been in purgatory. I cannot work on-farm, I cannot check my stock, I cannot help with silage and my annual holiday to the Royal Highland Show had to be cancelled.

 

Focus

 

Situations like this serve to focus the mind. The farm, of course, has been fine in my absence, thanks to some family members and local neighbours taking control; heroes who cannot be thanked enough.


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In all honesty, I have not really been missed. Cows have still calved and silage has still been made. The question I now ask is should we seek to employ someone on a part-time basis?

 

Someone who knows how the farm works on a day-to-day basis and could take over at a moment’s notice or for the odd holiday and weekend.

 

Clearly this would be financially difficult unless we can increase our income, and the only way to do this would seem to be to push production levels, a strategy which in itself would seem counter productive.

 

Maybe we should start to rationalise the business and seek other income streams? Or perhaps we carry on and see what happens over the next few years?

 

Given the current political situation, I fear some decisions will be made for us.

 

If things for the upland livestock sector are difficult now, I cannot see them improving as we remove ourselves from the European Union and allow Westminster to take control of the agriculture budget.

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