The Farmer Network is urging farmers to prepare a contingency plan as the Coronavirus pandemic takes a stronger hold across the country.

Many farmers are concerned about the effect on their business, their families and their livestock should keyworkers including themselves, become absent from the farm. Not only could the essential food supply chain be affected, but there are worries about the welfare of animals such as dairy cows needing to be milked and many sheep farms currently in the lambing season.

The Network is trying to develop a Farm Labour Emergency Support Scheme bringing together farms that need emergency labour with farm workers.  They are currently talking to funders to see what help might be available to resource a scheme and linking with other organisations, particularly with the Farming Help Partnership.

Adam Day, Farmer Network, Managing Director said: “farmers should seek help from family and friends as a first port of call for extra labour on their farm and remain isolated to reduce the risk of COVID 19.  However, this isn’t always possible and in the event of an emergency, it may be necessary to find additional help to protect the farm business and animal welfare”.

Mr Day went on to urge all farmers to write down a detailed contingency plan as if it has been created for a person entering the farm to work for the first time and this could also be used by family and friends in the event of illness.  This contingency plan could include key telephone numbers, feeding regimes and writing down who usually does what jobs, and instructions if someone else has to do them.

Network Chairman Randal Raine who runs a family hill farm near Renwick in Cumbria, said “We hope an emergency labour scheme will never be needed but it will be a comfort to many farmers, me included, to know that under a worse-  case scenario, there would be support out there to keep our farms going and livestock looked after.  Doing a contingency plan is so important for all farmers – think about what you would do if any key member of the business fell ill.”

The Farmer Network is developing a contingency plan template that will be available on its website and social mediapages for farmers to download.