Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England

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Foot and Mouth

Not again, please no. It was a heart sink moment when I heard the news last night. Let’s hope that the lessons learnt from last time result in less anguish and financial loss.


Make no mistake out in the country you don’t forget the impact of an outbreak of foot and mouth. I can remember swishing my little Wellington boots in the disinfectant and stomping across the barriers of disinfectant sodden straw in the farm lanes as a child in the 60’s; my children (who were only aged 6 and 4 at the time of the last outbreak) can tell you exactly which lanes were closed by soldiers (may that be the only time they ever see soldiers in our lanes.) Thankfully we didn’t have to witness the grotesque pyres of burning cattle. But the anxiety in the farming community becomes palpable.

Now if you have a mental image of the stereotypical farmer leaning on a five bar gate wearing a donkey jacket tied up with orange polypropylene string and chewing a bit of straw, you are visualising a rare and endangered species. Rather than bid you a cheery ‘Mornin’ some of our local farmers are more likely to greet you with an email ‘Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld’ sent whilst simultaneously checking their website for bookings of their holiday cottages and keeping a prudent financial eye on the livery yard of very expensive and cosseted horses.

But being a farmer comes with a unique set of pressures, it is isolating; you work on your own, your line manger is you, the buck stops with you. The length of time needed to see any possible rewards from you investments is long and the risks are high, and if rain pours out of the sky for week after week or the slaughter men role up with the man from the Ministry of Agriculture to destroy your life’s work (no make that several generations of work, because your father and grandfather will have built up the blood line of your herd) there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

It is not as easy as handing in your notice, or looking for a new job, or a transfer to a different department, your job is your home, 24/7. Your farm was your dads work and it’s your children’s future. Is it any wonder the suicide rate is so high in the farming community?