Cumbria farmers count cost of floods

Cumbria farmers in flood hit areas have been assessing the impact of the disaster on stock numbers and damage to lowland meadows.

“It may seem like a long time ahead but there are hundreds of acres of meadows that we need for lambing time that are now covered in inches of gravel and debris after the floods,” said Andrew Nicholson who farms at Lorton, near Cockermouth.

Not only is the destruction of the bridge at Lorton causing him to take a daily 20-mile trip to feed cattle, but the loss of the bridge means Mr Nicholson has 500 acres of in-bye and enclosed fell land that is now cut off from his main farm.

“We need access to that land in the winter but now we can’t get to it without the 20-mile detour.”

Donald Pattinson of Lower Braithwaite Farm, near Keswick, had a bridge washed away that divides his farmstead from some of the farm buildings housing 100 cattle. The suckler cows are in cubicles but there are now issues over getting bedding to them and emptying the slurry store which is over half full.

“Everywhere you look there are problems,” said Mr Pattinson. “We do have another small bridge that we can get a quad-bike over to reach the cattle but we’ll have to look at other ways of getting the slurry out.”

Meadows at Lower Braithwaite Farm have also been covered in gravel and silt after the river burst its banks in the flood. “The bank looks like a huge cake that someone has taken a massive slice out of. The force of the water was frightening,” he told Farmers Weekly.

Adam Day, auctioneer at Cockermouth Livestock Centre said the sale of store cattle and store lambs that was cancelled last Friday will be held on Friday 27 November.

“I hope all the buyers that were coming from the Midlands and further south will still come up and support us. Our farmers need all the help they can get in these very difficult times,” said Mr Day.

Estimates of stock losses are still sketchy but many dead sheep were seen scattered along roadways during the weekend. “We aren’t sure exactly what we’ve lost. At one point we just smashed a stone wall down to give the sheep chance to get to higher ground and not all may have made it said,” said one hill farmer.

Mitchell’s Auction Company, owners of Cockermouth Livestock Centre, has opened buildings it owned in the town to enable shop owners hit by the flood to set-up stalls.

David Jones of Cockermouth NFU said phone calls from farmers up to mid-day on Monday suggested several hundred sheep had been lost in the floods on Friday but phone calls from farmers were still being received.

“The vast amount of gravel and silt that has been left on fields is going to be a major issue and a lot of farmers have lost substantial amounts of winter fodder,” said David Jones.

View pictures showing the extent of the flooding in Cumbria on the Farmers Weekly photo gallery.