It is with mixed emotions that John and I put pen to paper for the last time after over three years of writing this column, writes Tony. With the help of Farmers Guardian, the interest in share farming has grown, with an increasing volume of enquiries from interested parties keen to find out more about how the agreement works. We have had several requests to speak at farmer clubs meetings this autumn as well as John doing his bit at many other events.
Having two people write the article has made it easier as normally, when one of us has nothing to contribute, the other one usually has and ideas are bounced around before being included.
We have had all the lambs through the pens to worm, mark and vaccinate against orf and, despite being disappointed with the quality earlier on in the year, the lambs have done well regardless of the cold spring, although there are a few suffering from joint ill which is something with which we do not normally have much trouble.
Some big heifers we judged too fit to turn out sold well at auction despite the fat trade going the wrong way. A couple of good shaped ones were bought by independent butchers for further feeding, and it is reassuring to know that the supermarkets are not the only customer for our product.
Beef Expo at York last week proved to be a good day out with a tremendous show of cattle, interesting seminars and plenty of trade stands. Talking to the experts the general opinion was that beef would be at £3.80/kg by October, but I still remain to be convinced.
A couple of thank you’s to finish; to John for giving me the opportunity to farm at St Helen’s and to the Scottish distillery industry for giving me inspiration to find something to write about when I had nothing.
John writes: Whatever he says, Tony has done the bulk of these articles, unearthing a talent which I worried would cause editor Emma to offer him a job. I too am hugely grateful to her and the paper for the chance to bang on about share farming and I leave you with a little thought.
The buzz phrase among the professionals and experts is ’volatility, get used to it’. As share farmers we ride the same economic roller coaster whereas a tenant has a rent that is fixed whatever actually happens. Surely better brains than mine can find a system where the rent bears a more immediate relationship to the profitability of the business. Or better, go share farming!
So it’s goodbye from me and goodbye from him – and huge good luck to the Ryders who are going to fill this slot.
Tony Shepherd farms 112ha (227 acres) as a share farmer with landowner John Henderson at St Helens Farm, Eshton, near Skipton. The all grass LFA unit, rising to 240 metres (800ft) lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They run 150-200 store cattle and 450 Mule ewes, lambing at the end of March.