The last twelve months have undoubtedly been a huge test for everybody in the farming industry in the UK, with many claiming it to be the most difficult year in a century. A number of different factors added up to make it such a trying time, but farmers are how hopeful that the industry will begin to see brighter days.
A wash out twelve months
One of the main problems that farmers have faced over the last year has been with the weather. While everybody knows how damaging drought are for agriculture, less people realise the damaging impact that too much rain can have. The last year has been one of the wettest on record, with it taking a long time for the UK to get any warmer or dryer.
The heavy rainfall caused a lot of problems for farmers. Ground became waterlogged, which in turn meant that crops often failed. Heavy rainfall can lead to fungal growths that can destroy potatoes, and grains can turn brown rather than the golden-yellow that is desirable. The heavy rainfall also meant that there was not enough silage to feed the farm animals. Silage is food made from fermented crops and grass that many farmers use to feed ‘cud-chewing’ animals such as cows – not having this readily available put a large strain on farmers’ budgets.
The problem of TB
Bovine tuberculosis has had a tragic effect on the farming industry. 37,000 cattle had to be sent to slaughter throughout 2012, and this looked set to continue into this year with the slaughter of 6,000 animals during just the first two months of 2013. It is thought to have cost the UK economy £500 million already
TB is a contagious disease that spreads quickly amongst livestock, meaning that one infection can wipe out a farm’s entire supply of animals. It also put humans who have come into contact with the animals in danger. The controversial plans to begin a badger cull in the hope of minimizing the spread of the disease are set to go ahead on a trial basis. Despite strong opposition from animal rights groups as well as many members of the public, it is hoped by people in the farming industry that it will help to alleviate the problems caused by the outbreaks of TB.
A more positive outlook
As the weather finally warms up and we begin experiencing some summer in the UK, farmers are starting to have a more optimistic attitude about the future of farming. Country shows and fairs have started throughout the country as part of the summer season of events, and the success of these has helped to build morale. It has also shown the support that people in the UK have for British farms, particularly in the wake of the horsemeat scandal which has helped grow support for homegrown produce.
With predictions that winters may remain colder and wetter in future years, farmers accept that they may have to adapt their methods and techniques. However, they are dedicated to keeping the sector afloat; this hopefully will mean that we start to see fewer farms for sale with farmers having to leave the industry, and an increase in the demand for UK produce.