The agricultural industry has always been weather reliant and the past year has been no different. The Beast from the East landed here in March froze the ground and hampered the growth in young plants. This was followed in quick succession by a dry and warm weather-front which helped the later sown crops form strong roots.
Summer brought sunshine and heat, so much so that the days without rain rolled into weeks and then months! The outcome was that many of the crops and grass did not get enough water to grow and drought conditions took hold.
As a result the 2018 harvest was a mixed bag. Cereal crops were short and light meaning both less grain for the markets and reduced straw for the livestock. Overall, the fodder crops, such as silage and hay, were also in short supply and livestock farmers had to start feeding their cattle in the fields from August, two months earlier than normal, as there was not sufficient pasture for grazing. This inevitably led to price increases and will also give rise to shortages in animal feed stock over the forthcoming winter months.
Many farmers are looking at alternatives for both feed and bedding with various by-products being considered because of the increased grain and fodder prices. If the farmers do not have, or cannot afford to buy the additional feedstock and bedding for their livestock, the only other option is to reconsider how many animals are kept. If the situation does not improve, the market may see more youngstock being sold rather than finished over the winter, and the number of breeding stock also reduced. For the consumer, this may manifest itself in reduced meat supply and increased prices in 2019.
Farming, however is a resilient industry. Farmers will always weather the storm by means of diversification, reviewing what is best to produce, taking into account the level of support the land can provide and keeping an eye on what the markets dictate.
As part of Bruce Stevenson’s review meetings with our farmer clients, this is an area that is regularly discussed. Insurance covers can be amended to ensure that the correct levels of protection are in place for both the current and future plans of the business. As your “Broker of Choice” we can add value to the business and make sure we are the “experts in protecting the rural sector”.