Paying price of bitter weather
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.