Farmers are being warned that the big freeze is expected to last up to three weeks, with snow falling in many places this weekend.

The Met Office has warned of a significant risk of severe cold, icy and snow conditions between yesterday (Saturday 12 January) and next Tuesday (15 January).

All of the UK, especially eastern, south and south-east England, can expect snow flurries, with up to 10cm of snow forecast for fall in some areas this weekend.

Dry and bright weather was forecast for Sunday (13 January), but farmers were warned that daytime temperatures could plummet to about freezing point in some regions.

Paul Gundersen, Met Office chief forecaster, said: “All parts of the UK will see cold weather setting in over the weekend.

“We can expect sleet and snow showers to affect eastern areas at times, but with a battle developing between the cold air in the east and mild air pushing in from the west, no one should be surprised to see sleet or snow over the weekend and early next week.”

Weather experts said the cold weather was due to an area of high pressure developing over Scandinavia, allowing cold air from the Baltic and western Russia to move towards the UK. At the same time, milder air from Atlantic weather systems is trying to push in from the West.

Sheep farmer James Read, who farms at Louth on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds in partnership with his father, said: “Getting feed to the sheep is a priority at the moment and we have got plenty of haylage at the ready.

“The sheep are all on higher protein buckets – there is nothing in the grass.”

“The bad weather doesn’t bother us that much – it’s the guys who have got their stock on the hills who will have problems.”
Robert Neill, Farmers Weekly columnist

Mixed farmers Robert and Jac Neill farm 300 Limousin-cross cows on 435ha and 240ha of cereals at Upper Nisbet in the Scottish Borders.

“All our livestock is inside and we have enough straw, silage and hay as far as feeding is concerned if the roads get blocked,” said Mr Neill, a livestock Farmer Focus writer for Farmers Weekly.

“The bad weather doesn’t bother us that much – it’s the guys who have got their stock on the hills who will have problems.”

However, Mr Neill said any snow would be really unwelcome following weeks of unusually wet weather as the ground desperately needed to dry out.

“We had 40in (1,016mm) of rain last year when our average is 28in (711mm). We really need a hard frost to get the dung out on to the arable fields. If we had a fortnight of -10C weather, I wouldn’t care.”

Meanwhile, provisional Met Office figures showed 2012 was the second wettest on record, and just a few millimetres short of the record set in 2000.

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