August 2015: More demands on money than in the old days

Pig farmers, even after all these years, never cease to amaze me. They’re so dedicated; so forward looking; so totally involved and seem to cope with whatever the market and regulations throw at them.

Yes, they moan a bit, but are entitled to do so when an odd penny a kilo is knocked off the price, which I’m sure is never reflected at the retail end. An odd penny is 80p/pig! From conception to selling, almost a year passes, and a lot can happen during that time. Despite that, they update their buildings and strive to become more efficient.

I know cows are not our usual interest in this magazine, but the dairy industry, if anything, appears to be worse off than the pig men at the moment, and I can’t think of anything good in farming just now.

Years ago, when I was lad, I believe that families on average spent 25% of their income on food. I’m not sure exactly what the figure is now, but I read somewhere that it was somewhere about 15%. In the good old days, not every family had a car, holidays weren’t top priority and there were no television sets, no computers or mobile phones, very few houses had a phone and most in the country had paraffin lamps. How life has changed today.

There are so many modern things on offer that seem to have priority over food, and you see young children with mobiles clapped to their ears or even tablets and other electronic gadgets, very few of which I profess to understand. In the old days, very few wives went out to work, they fed and watered their families, they would spend their income on food, hard-wearing clothes and good-quality shoes that would last a long time. They didn’t get into debt and were generally quite healthy as there was no junk food!

Nowadays, child care costs a fortune as lots of mums have to go out to work, rents and mortgages are much dearer pro-rata and there are more and more household gadgets required. I’m not suggesting for one minute that those things shouldn’t be part of modern life, but they do have an effect on the money spent on food, which might be one reason why it appears that a healthy diet for children isn’t always top priority as there are many fattening snacks and pepped-up drinks available.

So where do we go from here? What’s going to bring farming in any sector back to profitability? I wish I knew the answer, then I would know what to sow next year as currently having the farm fallow would be a cheaper way of losing losing money than spending it on seed, sprays and fertilisers at current prices!

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About The Author

Sam Walton is a Yorkshire farmer and former pig producer, and the founding editor of Pig World.