Leaving the herd behind to express a shared fury

A despairing farmer says some people are now resorting to bribery

Will Forrester boarded a coach in Telford at 3.30am to travel to the farmers' demonstration at the Tory conference. Not much, apart from helping a calf into the world, would normally get him up in the middle of the night. And like most of the 50 Shropshire farmers on the coach, voluble public protest is not in his character.

Mr Forrester, 33, farms 220 acres near Whitchurch. Acquired by his father, a former farm labourer, it is a family concern employing one man and concentrating on beef and sheep.

"March 20 was a big shock to us all," he said yesterday, recalling the impact of the ministerial statement which spawned the crisis. "We didn't quite know what was happening. Every time these BSE scare stories had come along in the past there had been a drop in the beef price but it was temporary. This time it was hard to see how it would recover." It hasn't.

Mr Forrester usually has about 200 cattle on the farm at one time - a small herd of 25 suckler cows, their calves and other bought-in beef animals being fattened up on cereal mixes under cover.

"We didn't rush to sell any but took seven or eight to the auctions at Market Drayton in May." They sold for between pounds 120 and pounds 200 a head less than a year earlier and less than it had cost to rear and feed them. Mr Forrester's reaction, in a word, was, "sick".

Like most farmers, he also has complaints about the slaughter scheme for animals more than 30 months old. Of the eight he has registered for the cull only one has gone to the abattoir. "You can get rid of them if you're prepared to pay people back-handers - commissions to abattoir agents - but we're stuck with them."

Doubtful of ministers' claims that the backlog will be cleared by Christmas, he faces the prospect of feeding and housing non-productive cows into the winter as well beef animals to be sold at a loss.

Even if he gets an old suckler cow into the cull, the compensation will be some pounds 400 down on the auction price he would have got a year ago for a 1,000kg animal.

Then a week ago Douglas Hogg added insult to injury for Mr Forrester by announcing a 10 per cent cut in the compensation amounts for cull cattle. Effective from 14 October, the change applies to cattle in the backlog, many of which have been listed for slaughter for months.

"We have the sheep and I think I'll survive," Mr Forrester said as the farmers started to drift back to their coaches. Except for the depression of market days, he still derives a deep satisfaction from the job and will not quit.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back