Dry weather hampers Western Isles crofters

Farmers and crofters in the Western Isles are currently facing the worst dry period in living memory, with concerns lambs will not be ready for the autumn sales.

A group of islands not normally associated with dry weather – Land Rover has a paint colour called Stornoway Grey – the Met Office say rainfall in June was 41% below average at 47.5mm, while rainfall throughout March, April and May was 33% below average at 206.4mm.

Producers warn there will be a shortage of fodder crops for the winter, with first-cut silage yet to be taken and at least a month behind, while lambs are set to be behind schedule ahead of the autumn sales.

Adding to this, there is concern about the knock-on detrimental effect of wet weather on the mainland which will add to the cost of already expensive imported hay and straw coming on to the islands.

This issue has been heightened with the removal of the Road Equivalent Tariff earlier this year, which offered subsidised ferry fares for vehicles coming on and off the islands.

Commenting on the situation, former Scottish Crofting Federation chairman Neil Macleod said: “I have never seen such a sustained period of dry weather in my time; we are really suffering.

“The fear is the shortage of grass – we are at least a month behind and the quality isn’t there. The lambs aren’t growing like they should be, and people have had to supplementary feed their stock at a huge cost. The animals are going to be behind for the autumn sales and people will take a hit.”

Crofter Donald Macsween, who keeps 50 ewes in Ness on the Isle of Lewis, added: “Because of the dry weather, there is an increased workload in having to take water to the sheep, and there are increased costs if you are having to supplementary feed them.

“I sheared all the sheep 10 days ago and that’s when I really noticed how far behind they were; they are probably going to sell at a lesser price in the autumn. There is also a fear among people of high feed costs happening because of the rain on the mainland.

“Vegetables and potatoes aren’t growing either because there was just not enough rain. The main crop is a lot better but the earlier varieties haven’t grown.”


Rainfall map© Met Office

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