A farmer's perspective

Declan Allison

09 December 2016

East Antrim farmer, Robyn Hamilton, describes some of the difficulties farmers are facing.

“We produce beef, diary and about 40 sheep. You need good silage to have good production of milk.

“We have two full-time jobs plus the farm. Ground rent is up. A lot of farmers are at the stage of just quitting and not farming themselves but renting their ground, because then they get their ground rent.

“I don’t think anyone really knows what will happen if grants are cut after Brexit. Climate change is a problem too. The weather isn’t on our side. Crop producers are completely reliant on the weather. Some farmers have lost a lot of potatoes.  A lot of people are talking about it now.

“We’re only milking 40, maybe 50. We’re getting about 20p per litre, that’s high. We’d need about 25p to break even. How much it costs us depends on if you have your own ground and silage.  The meal’s gone up again in price. That’s not including vet’s bills or dosing.

“Better prices would make it possible to make a living. The earlier we can get lambs away the better money we can get, but everyone’s in the same boat, trying to sell early.

“A lot of farmers have taken a risk going big, and put in big dairies and now milk prices have gone down. That’s a lot for the bank to own. We’re just sitting holding on.

“We’re being encouraged to keep more animals, but more animals means more of everything - more cost price, more housing, more slats, more tanks for slurry.

“If there was money in milking, if we could get a decent price one of us could leave work and farm full-time. That’s ideally what we’d like. We’re struggling. We couldn’t afford to leave work to come home because it’s not breaking even. A lot of our wages goes on the farm. Where’s it going to be when our son is our age? I’d love him to be able to farm if there was an option for it.

“Someone somewhere is making money, but it’s not the producers at the bottom. The costs are passed down and we take the blame.

“The UFU is helping the big farmers but not the small farmers. Anyone going big is going to be flooding out the small farmers. Support for the little farmers, the average farmers? Probably not.

“No farmer expects a big wage, but it would be nice to keep going, to cover your costs at least. Someone wouldn’t go to an average job for a week to come home with no wage. It’s for the love of the animals.”