Pay­ing price of bit­ter weather

The Herald - - NEWS - DOU­GLAS MACSKIMMING

MELT­ING snow has re­vealed a grave­yard of sheep and cat­tle which per­ished in the freez­ing weather with more than 50 tonnes of car­casses a day be­ing re­moved from farms.

An­i­mal car­cass ex­perts say that thou­sands of dead sheep are be­ing trans­ported for dis­posal across Scot­land ev­ery day as farm­ers scour their lands for miss­ing flocks.

The Scot­tish Farmer re­ports that the sit­u­a­tion is putting im­mense pres­sure on fallen stock op­er­a­tors and the ren­der­ing in­dus­try, which are now struggling to cope with the num­ber of weather-re­lated ca­su­al­ties.

Busi­nesses have spo­ken of “hor­ror sto­ries” as grave­yards of an­i­mals are dis­cov­ered un­der re­ced­ing snow­drifts, and have warned that Scot­land’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor is braced for a se­vere fi­nan­cial hit.

Harry John­ston, co-owner of Grayshill knack­ery, at Cum­ber­nauld, said: “There are plenty farm­ers with huge losses since the snow melted. In the past week, we have lifted 50 tonnes of dead sheep ev­ery day and ev­ery day, three of our ar­tics, two full of sheep and one with cat­tle, have gone down the M74 to John Bo­gie’s Oak­bank waste plant at Dum­fries. The sit­u­a­tion will be costly for farm­ers.”

Mr Bo­gie added: “The num­ber of dead sheep is to­talling thou­sands. We have had in­di­vid­ual calls to pick up 10, 50, 100, and even as many as 200. It is not only Scot­land that’s been af­fected – the sit­u­a­tion just over the Bor­der, in Cum­bria, is just as bad.

“The prob­lem has been that with an­i­mals shel­ter­ing in the gul­lies and be­hind dykes, the winds which came with the snow caused such huge drifts that the an­i­mals were quite quickly smoth­ered.”

Jim Walker, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Ar­gent plant, at Mother­well, which buys all the tal­low from Mr Bo­gie’s Dum­fries oper­a­tion, said: “We have seen a mas­sive in­crease in the amount of tal­low over the last few weeks. It is quite un­be­liev­able.

“The snow has thrown up some real hor­ror sto­ries from one end of the coun­try to the other. The death rate on the hills is enor­mous. I’ve seen noth­ing like it in 20 years. Feed bills will be hor­ren­dous and not all farm­ers will be in­sured for losses of this scale.”

A Pee­bles-shire hill farmer, ask­ing not to be name, con­firmed the hit he had taken from the “Beast from the East”: “We lost 70 ewes and with snow drifts still ly­ing in some places, there could yet be more deaths to un­cover. We didn’t need this at this time.”

Pe­ter Will, who farms Ball­hala, at Strath­blane, has taken a dou­ble whammy, not only find­ing ewes dead in the snow, but also since hav­ing his 340-ewe flock at­tacked by a dog.

Mr Will, 36, told The Scot­tish Farmer: “Both in­ci­dents have been quite a hit. The melt­ing snow re­vealed 27 ewes dead, which for me is a big per­cent­age loss.

“My farm also bor­ders Mug­dock Coun­try Park and at the week­end a dog be­ing walked there ran into one of my fields and at­tacked the sheep with 10 hav­ing to be put down. I man­aged to chase the dog back to its owner.

“It didn’t look like some­thing you would have as a pet. Its owner didn’t say much and the po­lice are deal­ing with it. I only started four years ago and losses like this are the last thing I need, es­pe­cially at lamb­ing.”

NFU Scot­land pres­i­dent An­drew Mccor­nick said: “The con­di­tions which many farm­ers faced over the last month have clearly been ex­treme and it is un­for­tu­nately to be ex­pected that the num­ber of live­stock lost is go­ing to be higher than in nor­mal weather cir­cum­stances.

“If mem­bers be­lieve that po­lit­i­cal pres­sure is needed to over­come prob­lems pre­sented by the ex­cep­tional weather, then we would en­cour­age them to feed in to re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tives and man­agers.”

„ James Gil­roy, a sheep farmer in Dum­fries and Gal­loway, count­ing the cost of snow­fall that saw sheep die af­ter be­ing trapped in huge drifts.

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