Many hundreds of sheep and cattle could have perished as flood waters swept fiercely across thousands of low-lying acres in the north west of England, it has emerged.
As farmers returned from their first forays to check the level of stock casualties and devastation suffered during the freak deluge of rain that hit west Cumbria, the worst-affected areas appear to have been farms around Lorton in the Lake District as well as a vast swathe of lowland around Cockermouth.
Lowland grazings close to Keswick and coastal fields on the west coast – many holding valuable stocks of breeding sheep sent away for wintering – have been severely hit and remain flooded.
As the rain eased intermittently on Friday farmers took the chance to check up on stock that had either been left to fend for itself or been hurriedly loosed from fields in the hope of finding high ground as the flood waters surged.
But early checks proved frustrating for many who were able to see stressed sheep stranded on land above the flood waters but were unable to reach them or even try to rescue them.
One farmer told Farmers Weekly: “I’ve got sheep that are marooned and traumatised and if we try and round them up or put a dog near them they will plunge into the water in panic and drown anyway. It’s a desperate situation when we know there’s more rain to come this weekend.”
Reports coming in from the region relay images of total devastation in many rural areas which were being described as “almost as though a tsunami had struck.”
Many rural roads have been very badly damaged and there have been massive deposits of gravel left on fields where rivers have burst their banks. Hundreds of acres of pasture that provide essential lowland grazing for hill farms may be left unusable for some time.
Forage stocks have also been hit with big black bales of silage washed away from the yards of many farms.
There had been no reports of milk not being collected but as farmers counted the toll of stock losses, the NFU in Cockermouth gave salutary advice.
“We hope that Trading Standards staff will be understanding in their attitude to the disposal of deadstock killed by the floods. We advise farmers making calls to arrange removal of deadstock to log-in all details, keep times of calls and record reference numbers wherever possible to make sure they are completely covered,” said Cockermouth NFU branch secretary David Jones.
And he advised farmers to take care and inform their families if they were going out to check on stock and buildings. “These are very dangerous situations that have not been made any less so just because the rain has stopped. It’s important no one takes risks, particularly when trying to rescue stock.
Phone lines to the NFU’s Cockermouth office have been very busy but any farmers with queries regarding the impact of the floods could contact the NFU regional office (01695) 554 900.
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