The number of farmers that were referred to Cookstown-based charity Rural Support for help and advice almost doubled during the 2023/2024 financial year.

Figures from the charity show that 192 farmers were referred to Rural Support, which represents a 98% increase on 2022/2023 levels.

The referrals come from people who have direct contact with farmers, such as animal feed reps, vets and bankers.

Overall, 560 farm families contacted Rural Support for help during 2023/2024, with a 40% increase in calls seen during the last six months of the financial year.


There has been a strong uptake of the business mentoring service that is offered by the charity, with demand rising by 28% last year. Around 20% of the clients that use the mentoring service also require counselling.

The increased demand for the various services offered by Rural Support is stretching resources within the charity and more mentors have had to join its programmes in recent months.


Statistics on the main reasons for calling Rural Support’s helpline show that 52% of calls stem from financial issues, 23% relate to farm inspections and 18% were to do with paperwork or farm payments. Of those who contacted the helpline amid concerns for someone else, around 80% were worried about the mental health of the person, who was usually a relative or neighbour.


Results of a Rural Support survey of NI farmers show that “rising costs” was by far the main concern from a farm business perspective last year, with 52% of respondents highlighting it as an issue.

After that, climate change (19%), animal disease (17%), farm support changes (14%) and land availability (14%) were the main farm business concerns.

The survey also asked farmers about family-related concerns.

Physical health, rising costs, workload and succession planning were the main answers, with each of these issues highlighted by between 18% and 21% of respondents.