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NPA looks to expand allied network to support producers

13th Dec 2018 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA is in discussions with its allied industry members about the possibility of expanding the existing allied Industry network to provide help and support for pig producers.

Following a suggestion originally by industry consultant Stephen Hall, this initiative is being developed in collaboration with the Farming Community Network (FCN).

Hugh CrabtreeNPA Allied Industry Group chairman Hugh Crabtree said there was growing evidence that mental health issues are increasingly taking their toll on farm businesses.

“We all need to recognise that mental health is just as important as physical health,” he said. “We are acting partly because there are a number of threats on the horizon that could add to the stress that those working in the pig sector feel – from Brexit disruption to instability in the market, the risk of African swine fever and activist incursion. Following Stephen’s suggestion, we are keen to formalise the existing support network that is already out there among the allied businesses that work with producers.”

NPA and AIG representatives have met with FCN to discuss how its expertise and support could be more readily utilised in the pig industry.

Lizzie WilsonWriting in the December issue of Pig World, NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson outlined the key messages from Jude McCann, the chief executive for rural support in Northern Ireland and a Nuffield Scholar, when he addressed the latest meeting of the AIG.

“Pig producers and stock people will all be quick to call the vet to a sick pig, but how often do you do the same for yourself? No one can do their job well if they are feeling stressed or anxious and as the NPA have seen a few times; if the welfare of the animals is poor, it generally indicates the welfare of the person looking after them is poor also,” Lizzie wrote.

“There is lots of support out there including the Farming Community Network and the very embryonic AIG Support Network, whereby NPA is formalising the network of support already provided by the allied sector.”

If you’re interested in volunteering to help, you can contact Lizzie at 

FCN support

Also writing in Pig World, FCN chief executive Charles Smith said: “For most people within farming, mental health is far from an easy conversation to have. But with more than one member of the farming community dying by suicide every week, it is a subject that can no longer be avoided.”

He outlined the signals which, if seen on a prolonged basis, may indicate poor mental health that pig farmers should look out for. These include:

  • Eating more or less than normal
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor physical health
  • Feeling tense
  • Feeling useless
  • Feeling worried or nervous
  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness

Poor mental health can also lead to physical symptoms such as:

  • Back pain
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Psoriasis
  • Migraine
  • Tension headaches

“Identifying these signals, both in yourself and those around you, is an essential first step in getting the help you need,” he wrote.

“If you have identified any of these signs and they are not normal behaviour, the next step is to talk to someone. You can talk to your friends and family, other farmers, your neighbour or your GP.

“Or if you are worried about talking to those closest to you, for fear of becoming a burden, you can talk to The Farming Community Network (FCN). Our volunteers have a wealth of experience in supporting farmers and farming families who have been affected by financial difficulties and animal disease.

“Our confidential national helpline is open every day of the year from 7am-11pm and the majority of our volunteers are from a farming background and therefore have a great understanding of the issues pig farmers regularly face. FCN’s volunteers can help farmers find the support they need and ‘walk with them’ on their journey to a more positive place in their lives.”

If you are a pig farmer struggling with your mental or physical health, experiencing suicidal feelings or have been bereaved by suicide, call the FCN helpline on 03000 111999 or email .