I took a break from writing yesterday with a delightful thirteen mile hike from the small Yorkshire town of Lofthouse to How Stean Gorge and pack again following the path of the Gouthwaite reservoir. Along the way I got up close and personal with numerous small herds of cattle and hundreds of sheep many of whom are just days away from losing their coats as the summer shearing season gets into full swing.
Sadly for what remains of the hill farming community of Nidderdale and the broader acres of the Yorkshire dales, the economics of sheep farming has become even more precarious than usual in recent months.
In many cases, it now costs more to shear one sheep than the coat of wool will sell for at market. This BBC news video is timely and shows the link between the property recession - which has hit the demand for new carpets - leading to a fall in market demand for wool and a weakening of prices paid to farmers at auction.
Britain is the 7th biggest producer of wool in the world, it won’t surprise you to know that Australia and New Zealand lead the way. The UK exports around one third of the annual 60,000 tonne clip.
Hill farmers will try to hold on as long as possible. With many choosing to leave the industry the world shortage of wool is likely to intensify in coming years and this, along with a long awaited recovery in the macro-economy ought to see an improvement in the profit margins for sheep farmers.
There is an article on the broader economic challenges facing the UK farming community here from the BBC news website