Warm weather hurting North West farmers, says agricultural expert

An agricultural expert has expressed concerns at the impact the recent lack of rainfall could have on local farming, with this summer's arid weather having forced authorities into imposing a hosepipe ban across the North West.

Monday, 23rd July 2018, 10:53 am
Updated Monday, 23rd July 2018, 10:57 am
Rob Matthews of rural insurance specialists Lycetts.

While scorching temperatures across the UK have made for a barnstorming summer for most sunshine revellers, the prolonged lack of rainfall has seen Britain's typically lush green pastures adopt a more beige colour, leading to what rural insurance specialists Lycetts called a 'huge strain' on farming.

Lycetts' Rob Matthews said farmers, faced with animal welfare and crop failure concerns, could face the less summery consequences of the record temperatures and blue skies, and pointed out that while the hosepipe ban - which will be imposed by United Utilities from August 5 - may be a necessary inconvenience to residents, the real pressure is on farms.

"Unfortunately, parched gardens and wilting plants are the least of farmers’ worries," said Rob, with some working in the industry forced to sell livestock they cannot feed. “We have not seen weather like this in decades, and although people up and down the country are 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."

Rob also warned that if the hot weather continues as expected, farming businesses will face an uphill battle to recover and could be dealing with the effects until early next year, with the situation being made worse by a wet summer last year and the Beast from the East earlier this year meaning that cattle had to be housed and fed indoors longer than usual, depleting food stocks.

“Today’s situation is the culmination of weather extremes," Rob explained. “Crop yields are down at least 10 per cent due to the dryness; crops stopped growing six weeks ago. 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 - 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," he added. "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.”

Farmers are also feeling the effects of the hot weather in other ways, with sheepdogs, lambs, and calves all having died in extreme heat and wildfires an increasingly pressing threat.

“The sad reality is that farmers, particularly smaller operations, are having to deal with all these risk factors on their own," said Rob. “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," Rob advised.