Young farmers have been working flat out to keep flood-devastated farmers in the South West supplied with enough feed for their livestock.
Regional young farmers’ clubs have given tremendous support to a national effort to back the Forage Aid appeal, which aims to supply hay, straw and other fodder crops and cash donations to farmers in Somerset.
Ed Ford, 23, vice-chairman of the Essex Young Farmers’ Club, is co-ordinating a collection service in his county, which has seen 400t of fodder pledged since Sunday 9 February. Farmers all across Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire have been pledging supplies to the effort.
Over the weekend, 50 farmers were working at Childerditch Farms, in Brentwood, bringing convoys in, stacking bales and making tea.
Tesco has loaned its lorries and is providing free deliveries of fodder to Somerset. Currently, four lorry loads are being delivered every day. Local dealers have also generously contributing farming machinery, such as loaders, to help the operation.
“The response in this area has been unbelievable – it’s just truly amazing,” said Mr Ford. “We have had farmers pledge whole lorry loads of fodder. There’s no other industry that rallies round like agriculture.
“The farmer camaraderie has been incredible. People have been giving up their days to help us.”
Photos: See Somerset farmer’s flood struggle
Linda Watts, county organiser for Hertfordshire Young Farmers’ Club, said 18 farmers in the county had pledged donations of fodder so far. She urged others who wish to donate to contact her on 07825 525 573.
One farmer has donated 90 big round haylage bales, a second has offered 450 small hay bales and a third 50 small bales.
“It doesn’t matter how much people donate. We’re grateful for everything. It all adds up – even if it’s just a couple of bales,” she said.
The first delivery of fodder is expected to be sent to Somerset within the next month.
Mrs Watts stressed that farmers in Somerset will need a constant supply of bedding, hay and fodder “right through until the end of the year”.
“We are also hoping we can send a few groups down to help out with the clean-up operation in Somerset once the waters recede. That’s just a massive job,” she added.
Bedfordshire Young Farmers and Suffolk Young Farmers’ groups have also been collecting forage to help the effort.
Tory Lugsden, county organiser at Suffolk Young Farmers’ Club, said farmers have pledged 24 lorry loads of hay, straw, silage, haylage and big bales.
“At the moment, Sedgemoor Market, which is acting as the drop-off point for fodder donations, is full, so we’re hoping that ours will go at the beginning of March,” she said.
* Farmers who wish to pledge donations of bedding, fodder and forage should contact NFU South West on 01392 440 700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
See also Flood hit farmers – how you can help
Meanwhile, the Glamorgan Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs and Glamorgan NFU will host an evening of entertainment to raise funds for Somerset farmers on 28 February, at Barry Memorial Hall in Barry, south Wales.
Tickets are priced £20 for adults, £15 for Glamorgan YFC members 16 and above and £10 for Children £15. For further information about how to purchase tickets, provide a donation or to contribute raffle/auction prizes please contact the NFU Mutual office on 01656 349 293.