As scientists warn that the deadly Schmallenburg virus could spread across the whole of the UK, an agricultural chaplain has warned that already hard-pressed farmers could be taken to the brink by the vector-borne disease.
Keith Ineson, 60, who has worked among the farming community in Cheshire for 12 years, has warned that many farmers are still dealing with the fall-out from Foot and Mouth disease – which struck over a decade ago.
“During lambing time, farmers are working all hours, they are tired, run down, and the stress of finding potentially deformed lambs is going to be very distressing,” he said. “And there could be a big financial impact to consider, heavy vets bills, and a lower number of lambs to take to market.
“It’s very worrying, the spread of this virus is very fast, and while nobody is saying it’s going to have the same impact as Foot and Mouth, the truth is we just don’t know how bad it will be.
“Some farmers will just be starting to lamb around now, and I know lots of people are worried about what is going to happen.
“Lots of farmers are already having huge problems with TB and cattle, and in some of the cases I deal with, farmers can trace financial problems right back to Foot and Mouth.”
Although farming is an outwardly macho world, with hard manual labour at its core, Keith Ineson says that most good farmers are very sensitive people, who may really need somebody to talk to.
“For most people, if they have a problem at work, or with the boss, they can talk to their co-workers and have a bit of a moan. But for farmers, they spend most of the time on their own, with nobody to talk to.
“Some of the suicides I’ve been to have been of people who were perfectionists, and who just felt they had lost it, because they had a weed growing in their yard.
“If the church can do one thing, I would say that we should listen.
“Listen to people, ask how they are doing – don’t be afraid of not knowing what people are talking about, just ring them up, let them know you are there to talk to.
“During Foot and Mouth, many farming families sent their sons and daughters off to work in non-farming jobs, to bring in some income – now there are fewer young farmers, and the average age of farmers is getting older.
“Many farmers are lonely, they are worried about what’s coming, they are struggling with their situation, and they are isolated.
“Just by ringing up, and asking how somebody is, you can really help.
“At the end of Foot and Mouth, it was said that the only agency that came out of it with any credibility, was the church. With the spread of Schmallenburg, its time for the church to get into action again.”
March 8th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross