Farmers struggle to cope with heatwave

With the hosepipe ban for the region announced today, an agricultural expert said he is worried about the huge strain the heatwave is having on the farming community.

Tuesday, 17th July 2018, 12:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th July 2018, 12:17 pm
The dried up bed of the United Utilities owned Wayoh Reservoir in the village of Edgworth, Bolton,

Rob Matthews, of rural insurance specialists Lycetts, said record temperatures and a lack of rain in recent months is taking its toll on farmers, who are increasingly faced with animal welfare and crop failure concerns.

Though the hosepipe ban, which will be imposed by United Utilities from August 5th, may be a necessary inconvenience to residents, Rob said farmers are the ones really feeling the pressure, with some having to sell livestock they can’t feed.

He warned, if the hot weather continues as expected, farming businesses will have an uphill battle to recover – and could be dealing with the effects of the hot and dry spell until early next year.

Rob said: “Unfortunately, parched gardens and wilting plants are the least of farmers’ worries.

“We have not seen weather like this in decades, and although people up and down the country are basking in the sunshine and enjoying a break from the gloomy British summertime, I would urge them to spare a thought for the struggling farmers, who are growing increasingly desperate with every day.

“Today’s situation is the culmination of weather extremes. A wet summer last year and the Beast from the East in the spring meant farmers were having to house and feed their cattle longer than usual.

“Crop yields are down, at least 10 per cent, due to the dryness – crops stopped growing six weeks ago and farmers have only got one of the usual two or three cuts of silage.

“Combine this with the fact there is no grass for cows to graze and farmers are being forced to use their winter stocks – which are already low – to keep them going, and you have a very challenging six months ahead.

“Farmers are being forced to buy in alternative feed – which drives up their overheads and affects their profits – or sell their livestock. But with so many farmers in the same predicament, they don’t have the grass supplies to accommodate new cattle, creating a problem for the market. It’s a vicious circle.”

Rob said that farmers are also feeling the effects of the hot weather in other ways.

He recounted cases where sheepdogs, lambs and calves have died in extreme heat, and wildfires have been making headlines up and down the country.

“The sad reality is that farmers, particularly smaller operations, are having to deal with all these risk factors on their own. It is hard for them to juggle the responsibilities of keeping their animals and fields healthy in such sustained, adverse weather,” said Rob.

“They can certainly take steps, such as ensuring there is enough shade and water available for their livestock, ensuring hay stacks are kept out of direct sunlight, away from glass or mirrors, entrances to fields are easily accessible for fire engines and making fire departments aware of sources of water on their land in case of an emergency.

“But members of the public can do their bit too, particularly when it comes to enjoying sunny days out in the countryside.

“Fields are like tinder in this weather, so ensure that cigarettes are discarded of properly, refrain from lighting disposal BBQs, unless in designated areas, and don’t leave any glass behind, which could spark a fire.”

The hosepipe ban which will come into force on August 5th restricts the use of hosepipes or sprinklers for watering private gardens and washing private cars, customers will still be able to water their gardens with a watering can and wash their vehicles using a bucket and sponge.