Straw and making silage is a massive cost on suckler operation regardless of size , can’t be discounted as don’t really spend much ..I buy store cattle off some small local farms and always try to help them out with bull hire or dehorning and TB testing.
Yesterday when I went to see some yearlings on one of these farms that is only around 50 acres of old established permanent grass and a reasonable shed, the owners said that they didn't think they will be continuing much longer.
They both work in good jobs and have a nice house, but fear with the end of BPS and no idea of what if anything ELMS will bring them that they can no longer subsidise their suckler cows. Last winter they had to spend £4k on feed for the roughly 40 (20 cows) head they keep as the previous wet winter and drought summers had depleted their feed supplies.
The cattle are mostly native Sussex and while not really a commercial operation as the cows are almost pets to them, they don't normally have to spend much money on anything other than straw and making silage/hay.
This is the second local farm that is also now considering their position very carefully and one has already sold off the cows. They do not want to plant trees on what is an already heavily wooded area and cannot see the point in continuing.
They could rent it out, but it is hard to see who will be interested in taking it on as access is not great and there are now virtually no farmer neighbours left as it is in an area of other small farms which have already almost thrown in the towel.
It cannot be ploughed as it is wealden clay on quite steep banks and small fields surrounded by woods and trees. It ticks every box for landscape and low input agriculture but what can they do to still receive sufficient payments to make it work?
I am sure this is not an isolated situation and taking the money from the retirement scheme will not be possible. These small farms have historically been an important part of the supply chain.