Get ready for winter on the farm

The Met Office has issued a range of practical tips and advice to help farming businesses increase their resilience this winter.

Farmers are at the frontline when severe weather strikes and are used to dealing with snow, ice and flooding.

However, as the snows of March 2013 demonstrated, some weather events can still have a devastating impact on some producers.

Therefore, under its “Get Ready for Winter” campaign, the Met Office has put together information to help farmers think about how they can mitigate the effects of any extreme weather.

What’s the weather outlook?

After a quiet spell of weather courtesy of a slow moving area of high pressure, we are now entering an unsettled period as a series of Atlantic depressions are expected to pass close to the northwest of Britain during the next week.

High pressure has now moved away and is settled over Europe and a powerful jet stream is developing over the Atlantic, which will be the main driving force behind this spell of unsettled weather.

Met Office forecaster Laura Young said the UK forecast for the next 30 days is for the unsettled weather to continue.

“We are looking at periods of low pressure which usually means wind and rain,” she explained.

“We are going to see a similar pattern to the weather in the past week – a couple of days of unsettled, blustery conditions, followed by days when it’s much calmer.

“Early indications are that the unsettled weather will continue into January, but after that it all gets a bit hazy. However, we are certainly not looking at horrendous storms with 180mph winds, as some media has reported.”

Plan for disruption

Farmers can benefit from taking action to protect the most “at risk” and/or profitable parts of their business before any severe weather hits.

Ready Scotland ( has provided a checklist for “Preparing the Farm for Winter”. This includes tips on farm health and safety, livestock location, machinery, feed, bedding, water/power and planning with neighbouring farms.

Farmers in England: Guidance from DEFRA

DEFRA has provided important guidance on protecting animal welfare in severe weather and links to other important sources of help and information, such as the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA). For more general queries, contact the DEFRA helpline on 08459 33 55 77.

Farmers in Wales: Guidance from the Welsh government

In Wales, your first port of call should be your local farm liaison team, a fully-funded service to provide one-to-one support for Welsh farmers. Caernarfon – 01286 674144; Carmarthen – 01267 225300 and Llandrindod Wells – 01597 823777.

And for the latest agricultural and rural affairs information, go online to see farm liaison news at

Wherever you are based in the UK

Farmers can get involved in local networks to prepare for emergencies as a community to help recover more quickly when severe weather strikes. You could put together an emergency telephone tree, set up a Facebook group for your local village, or check out the Farmers Weekly online community

Don’t take risks

In 2010, agriculture became the most dangerous industry in the country, based on fatalities per worker. Find out more about safe systems of work within all sectors of the industry at the Farm Safety Partnership website

Livestock safety

Making a contingency plan can make all the difference in keeping livestock safe and sound in extreme weather conditions.

Vet John Blackwell, president elect of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has some advice for farmers as the weather gets colder.

He said: “At this time of year it can be tempting to ignore weather warnings and assume forecasters are being overly cautious. But given the cost of being caught out, unable to reach animals who may be hungry or in distress, I’d encourage farmers to exercise extra caution this winter.

“Consider moving animals from high ground before extreme weather arrives or at least make sure there is fodder ready on site. Water provision needs to be checked as well to make sure animals can survive if temporarily stranded.”

Charitable assistance

Several charitable organisations offer assistance to farmers at time of crisis.

The Farming Community Network (FCN) provides a helpline and a visiting service to farming people and families who are facing difficulties. The helpline is available between 7am until 11pm every day of the year on 0845 367 9900. Or you can contact the eHelpline by emailing

The Addington Fund provides homes for farming families who have to leave their farm and by doing so will lose their home. In times of emergency, and where hardship prevails, Addington may be able to support a farm business through its Trustees’ Discretionary Fund with a short-term grant.

Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I.) is a grant-making charity that provides confidential help to retired and working farming people in financial difficulty. Support is given to people of all ages and is tailored to individual needs. Call the freephone helpline 0300 303 7373 or email

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