Farmers facing huge difficulties to look after livestock

PACEMAKER BELFAST 01/03/2018: Schools closed and travel disruption amid heavy Northern Ireland snowfall.'Heavy overnight snow is set to cause more disruption across Northern Ireland on Thursday. Road users have been advised to allow extra time for their journeys due to snow and ice. The weather conditions have led to difficult driving conditions. Sheep pictured sheltering from the snow in Carryduff, Co Down.'Picture By: Arthur Allison/ Pacemaker.

“Farmers across the UK are facing huge difficulties to look after livestock in the worst UK-wide winter weather we have seen for over a decade,” according to Tim Price, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual.

Mr Price said that in the areas which have had heavy snow and temperatures falling below -10c, farmers are facing a massive challenge to get fodder to sheep and cattle which are out in the fields or housed in remote buildings.

He added: “Scotland and the north east of England are currently the worst affected regions with deep snow still falling and drifting in high winds. Unusually, there has also been very heavy snow in Devon and Cornwall - including low lying areas which rarely see snow.

“Many farmers are doing their bit to help villages and towns cut off by snow by using their tractors to snow plough roads - and as part of our support for the countryside, NFU Mutual is pleased to provide cover free of charge for them to provide this as a community service.

“We haven’t seen such cold, prolonged temperatures for a generation. With temperatures not rising above freezing during the day, the risk of pipes freezing in homes and farms is very high,” he added.

“Usually, bursts occur when the thaw starts and frozen water expands in the pipes. For this reason, it’s important to check pipes around homes, outbuildings and farm buildings every few hours as the temperature rises above freezing so you can isolate a leak before it causes devastating damage.

“With roads in livestock areas particularly badly affected by snow, it may be that some dairies are unable to collect milk. Some farmers take out uncollected milk insurance cover for this contingency, and we may see claims coming in if the present conditions persist.

“In 2010 we paid out our highest ever number of claims for snow damage when heavy snowfall in Scotland and the North East of England brought down the roofs of hundreds of farm buildings. The present conditions, with light, dry snow coming from the east means it is unlikely we will see a repeat of 2010 scenario - but with more heavy snow forecast over the next 48 hours, it is important to keep an eye on depth of snow on roofs and move vulnerable livestock inside if snowfall turns wet and slushy and roofs appears at risk,” added Mr Price.

“Safety for farmers, family members, and workers is paramount, and while fully understanding the pressure farmers are under, trying to keep animals alive and while working in extreme cold, it’s vital to avoid taking risks which could lead to injury or fatalities.

“We’re also calling for the public to avoid using rural roads unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

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