07 January 1999
Storms to cost Scots up to £16m

STORM damage on Scottish farms is estimated at £8 million for insured property and probably as much again for uninsured buildings.

“It is the worst case of storm damage for 10 years,” said John Calver, Scottish manager for the NFU Mutual. “The storms on Boxing Day resulted in 2000 claims for £6.5m and we are looking at another £1.5m or more for claims resulting from the second storm on 4 January.

“The south-west and central Scotland was hardest hit with less damage the further north you go. Most of the claims relate to farm houses although there are a lot for farm buildings as well. There were a few cases of animals being killed when buildings collapsed and there was one lightening strike in Ayrshire which killed 24 sheep and a bull,” he said.

Thousands of farms were without mains electricity after the gales, some of them without power for up to a week. In most cases, generators came to the rescue.

Meanwhile, in Wales, waterlogged fields and widespread flooding has made life difficult this week, especially for sheep producers.

With many more lambs than usual on farms after the turn of the year, and a large number of extra old ewes retained because of low prices, poorly draining land is being severely poached. And grass utilisation problems mean that farmers who struggled to make decent fodder last summer have been forced to start feeding earlier than usual.

“Even doing this is causing trouble for some,” said Neil Smith, Gwent Farmers Union of Wales executive officer. “Farmers are in a no win situation. Ground conditions are so bad that supplementary feeding is needed, but it is muddy around troughs, sheep are getting very dirty, and members who are trying to provide stock with adequate feed are being reported to welfare authorities.”

Where extra feed was being given to finishing lambs outside, producers were worried that abattoirs would reject them as too dirty.

There was also growing concern about the falling condition of pregnant ewes exposed to incessant rain, and reports that early scanning results indicated a sharp fall in potential lambing percentage.