Torrential rain has yet again flattened crops and flooded already-saturated fields, leaving growers unable to harvest and plunging livestock producers further into crisis.
|The weather has stranded llivestock and ruined crops across the country.|
Many areas broke September rainfall records within the first five days of the month, according to the Met Office. Worcestershire recorded 70mm (2.7in) of rain – 111% of the monthly average – while Glamorgan was deluged with more than 120mm (6in).
East Anglia and northern Scotland escaped more lightly, with combines in Aberdeenshire rolling between showers. Yet even in parts of Essex, fields of blackened wheat have been left abandoned to the elements, all hope of harvesting them lost.
Nationally, about 35% of wheat is still to cut. “We are hearing of people having to disc the crops in, and of combines being towed out of fields,” said Stuart Shand of Gleadell Agriculture. “To add insult to injury, prices keep coming down.”
In the north of England, livestock producers face a major financial and welfare disaster for the third consecutive autumn. Instead of gaining condition after a summer at grass, sheep and beef cattle are losing weight – and their market value is diminishing.
But bringing stock inside only puts more pressure on fodder supplies already in a critical state on most farms. It is no exaggeration to say that silage supplies on many units might not even last beyond Christmas.
Hill farming especially is heading for a catastrophe. Weaned lambs off the hills and fells have no aftermath grazing and suckler herds in the Lake District are already being been brought inside to save fields turning into quagmires.
Meanwhile, wet lowland conditions continue to prevent the drilling of next year’s crops. The window for establishing oilseed rape is narrowing rapidly, with only about 40% of the crop believed to be drilled so far.
Owen Cligg, director of Wessex Grain, said the company was under tremendous pressure because of large amounts of wet grain. Most grain was coming in at 19% moisture, which would cost more than £10/t to dry, with some higher-moisture loads costing about £20/t.
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Sodden soils have also slowed the UK potato harvest. By last weekend, only 18.5% of the crop had been lifted, compared with 23% by same time last year, according to the Potato Council. At least yields are average so far.
In Gloucestershire, Graham Nichols is operating at only half speed. “We’re struggling,” he said. “We normally do 15 acres a day, but we’re only managing about six. The ground’s saturated.”