‘Mental health has been a massive talking point’

‘Mental health has been a massive talking point’

This month’s Farmers Guardian article from West Region Agri Affairs Chairman, John McCulloch

John McCulloch, 21, is a stockman at G Barbour & Co, based in Crocketford, near Dumfries in South West Scotland. He is the chairman of Stewartry Young Farmers and chairman of the SAYFC West region agri and rural affairs committee.



I work with 500 suckler cows and also beef cross dairy calves which are part of a supermarket supply chain agreement.

Here in Dumfries and Galloway, it was a cold spring and a slow year for grass growth so far, however we are down to the last fifty cows to calf and the mowers are out ready to start cutting the first of this year’s silage.

I look back over the past year and I think of how quickly and unexpectedly things can change.

I finished my HND in Agriculture at SRUC in Edinburgh in 2020, with the last few months of the course being done via a computer screen – a shock to the system to say the least.


The industry as a whole has seen farmers have to adapt to overcome the difficulties which the Covid-19 pandemic has presented, as have many industries.

Mental health has been a massive talking point throughout the pandemic and we have heard about the rising demand charities such as RSABI have seen for their services, with this particular charity seeing a 63 per cent upsurge in calls throughout 2020/21 compared to the previous year.

The biggest issue has been social isolation caused by a lack of agricultural shows, not being able to attend auctions and being unable to have the same social interactions with salespeople and visitors on farm.

This combined with issues such as low milk prices, high prices for raw materials and trade worries due to Brexit have all contributed to a major dip in mental health.

One issue I have really noticed over the past year is the increasing amount of negative press which this industry receives from the anti-farming agenda.

From the motion to ban beef at the University of Edinburgh last February to the current school dinner fiasco in Scotland, where schools are reducing the amount of red meat in their menus and substituting fresh milk for powdered.

Young Farmers

Clubs in Scotland are eager to get back to physical events. After a year on Zoom and not being able to socialise in the normal way, they seem to be even keener now than they were before the pandemic.

SAYFC has seen a large number of new and enthusiastic members joining the ranks, a great sight to see as they are the future of the movement.

The national young farmer’s event this July at Ingliston has given clubs and districts something to aim for and look forward to.