Hill-farm economics in 2018-19

In 2017 I wrote a piece about the 2016/17 Farm Business Income figures and how they related to farming on Dartmoor. Two years on, the 2018/19 figures have been published and they make for grim reading.

As a result of the cold late spring in 2018 followed by the very hot, dry summer hill-farmers faced increased feed costs. Additionally they received lower prices for store cattle, ewes and ewe hoggs at market. This resulted in a doubling of agricultural losses and a halving of their incomes despite subsidy levels remaining the same compared to 2016/17.

Upland hill-farming is categorised as ‘Grazing livestock (LFA)’

Here are the 2016/17 and 2018/19 figures for comparison.

In 2016/17 the agricultural elements of the hill-farming businesses made on average a loss of -£9400, by 2018/19 this had increased by £12100 to -£21,500. Farm incomes dropped by £11,800 from £27,000 to £15,500.

The final column in the above table shows that in 2016/17 without an subsidy the average hill-farm in England would have lost -£7000, by 2018/19 this had risen to -£18,800.

We are about to enter the third phase of agricultural policy since World War 2: ‘public money for public goods’, following on after the productivist era driven by the 1947 Agricultural Act and the era of ‘environmentalism’ underpinned by the agri-environmental schemes.

The new Public Money for Public Goods policy will see the Basic Payment Scheme and the agri-environment payments phased out and replaced by a new Environmental Land Management Scheme.

Even if all upland hill-farms received on average £34,300 (i.e. the subsidy level paid in 2018/19) for providing ‘public goods’ (carbon storage, water supply, wildlife, archaeology, access and landscape) we will be expecting hill-farmers to live on £15,500 per annum and that’s unsustainable surely?

I’m not sure our policy makers understand this …… but perhaps they do ….. and I won’t even mention the B word and possibility of a ‘no-trade deal’.


4 thoughts on “Hill-farm economics in 2018-19

  1. These figures reflect the change in occupancy of hill farms (at least here in Wales) Where each farm gave a subsistence living to a large family in days gone by now they are home to families where at least one partner, usually both, work outside their own farm. Hill farming is seen more as a lifestyle choice, a vocation, rather than a viable career. One aspect seems to be the change in focus of the farmers — rather than ‘ranching’ on the hill where survival of the fittest was core to the philosophy and overheads low, nowadays animal welfare is core and veterinary, feed costs and expectations have increased wildly.

  2. Thanks Adrian . The Editorial in the Farmers Weekly told us a few weeks ago that Farmers that are supported by Farm support bodies that would have to spend millions on bringing up the selling price of Beef. The alternative is for farmers to stop buying in straw and concentrates , overwintering for 6 months and 20 month slaughtering system, as not all farms are going to make it. Am I being NAIVE in thinking that Eamon Crowe, Natural England is helping the demise of many Dartmoor farmers. ? Does he not know Bulls are not allowed on the Commons .

    EMAIL FROM EAMON CROWE TO F. LUXMOORE Why are you spreading mistruths about what NE is requesting Commoners to do. You have your information incorrect. In fact following my various summers visits and my Teams surveys on Dartmoor the Forest of Dartmoor is completely under grazed and the  commoners are anywhere  30-50% under the supposed cattle numbers that should be evident and grazing on the high moor. In fact on one day I was up near Hangingstone at the end of July I saw 100 cattle being driven off the moor for bulling management  issues . These cattle should have been grazing the molinia when it was at its highest palatability. There is a complete lack of shepherding that is paid for under the pointed agreement by the commoners and instead I suspect these cattle are grazing the home commons where they shouldn’t be and causing localised over grazing issues.   Can you please stop spreading miss- truths to aid your own political agenda of wanting cattle on the moor all year  and concentrate your efforts on persuading commoners to graze the moor at the right time period between end May and August not during the winter and also shepherding the stock in an appropriate manner. These miss- truths are complicated an ever more complicated issue on Dartmoor and the farmers need our help in a positive manner.   Thank you   Eamon

    There is an NFU Plume of Feathers , Prince town ,Upland Farming talk with Thomas Binns and Harriet Henrick on Thursday 28 November At 7pm. Adrian your knowledge of data would be a great asset for Thomas Binns who farms in North UK.

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    • Yes Eamon Crowe does know that bulls are not allowed on Commons. That’s why they have removed spring calving cows at critical grazing times of the summer so farmers can put the bull to the moorland cattle in their in bye land!! Autumn calving cow herds are favoured as they graze the moor at the right time of the year.

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