Flood-hit farmer James Winslade could see cattle return to his farm within the next fortnight thanks to a big clean-up operation.
Over the weekend, up to 40 volunteers helped clean Mr Winslade’s flood-damaged West Yeo Farm, near Moorland, on the Somerset Levels.
Now he expects to start bringing some of his herd of 550 cattle back to the farm as early as next week.
The cattle, which were evacuated from West Yeo Farm in early February, are being kept at eight different farm locations across the South West, up to 40 miles away.
“We have definitely jumped two weeks within a week, so it’s gradually coming together,” said Mr Winslade.
“I thought my cattle would be off the farm for months, but we could potentially have half the herd back in the next fortnight.
“We have got a lot of storm damage and walls down. Some sheds will need rebuilding and the cattle that normally go in there will have to stay off the farm until that’s finished.”
He paid tribute to the “tremendous efforts” of farmers, young farmers’ clubs, school pupils, local people, flood actions groups and the general public for all their help.
“It’s been an amazing response. We’ve been overwhelmed by people’s generosity,” he said.
The volunteers included seven young farmers from Essex Young Farmers’ Club, who travelled to the South West on Friday evening (14 March).
Between them, the seven workers spent an estimated 220 man hours over three days clearing up the devastated beef and arable farm, which suffered crippling damage in the winter floods.
Young farmers, who were helped by volunteers from the Somerset Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG), local farmers and staff and pupils from Brymore Academy, Cannington, who got stuck in to a weekend of challenges.
Teagle Farming Machinery supplied a pressure washer and Essex Young Farmers’ Club also bought one to help remove the silty residue from Mr Winslade’s farm buildings and machinery.
See also: Flood-hit farmers – how you can help
Also, Essex-based farm machinery dealers Ernest Doe and Sons provided a washer that they built overnight in less than 24 hours. All the machinery will be used to clean up other flood-damaged farms
“We pressure-washed the tractors and feed troughs in the cattle pens. We disinfected the whole farm, all the cow sheds, everything,” said Ed Ford, vice-chairman of Essex Young Farmers’ Club.
And Asda kept volunteers’ spirits high by providing food free of charge.
However, Mr Ford stressed that there was still a lot of work to return the farm to anything like its previous state.
“We’ve only really put a dent in it (the work),” he said. “All the fencing is down, there are tyres everywhere and the house is in a real mess.
“All the welders were all written off. That has all got to be replaced. A John Deere Gator, a John Deere lawnmower and three quad bikes were also lost.”
He also thanked Asda for providing volunteers with free food over the weekend.
Mr Ford urged young farmers to offer their services to the clean-up operation. To pledge your support, including dates when you are available to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Farmers who wish to pledge donations of bedding, fodder and forage should contact NFU South West on 01392 440 700 or email email@example.com