Livestock farmers battle snow drifts and icy blast

Livestock farmers have been working round the clock to keep their animals fed and healthy after heavy snowfalls and an icy blast battered the UK.

The Met Office issued a 24-hour amber warning for snow covering an area from the south of the Peak District to the North Pennines up to 12pm on Friday (10 March). Up to 40cm of snow has fallen in some areas, accompanied by strong winds.

See also: Nematodirus risk in early lambs at raised levels for March

Highfields Farm, a Herdwick sheep farm in Onecote, Staffordshire, on the south edge of the Peak District National Park, has posted photos on social media of the impact of the snow on its hill farming operations.

On Twitter, Highfields Farm said snowdrifts had formed along walls as the wind strengthened. Farmers Nev and Kate Barker have been working hard to ensure all sheep are fed and watered.

The sheep have access to a barn and some shelter from the wind, but even inside there is snow coverage and drifting. “We’ve had a battering,” the Barkers said.

Mrs Barker said: “The high winds and the snow drifting have caused the main problems. The sheep are find and are all accounted for; some are in-lamb.

“We cleared the shed so they could get a bit of shelter. The wind has blown through today [Friday] and the sheep are out basking in the sunshine.”

In Llanfairfechan in Conwy, north Wales, farmer Gareth Wyn Jones said up to nine inches of snow had fallen at his family farm, Ty’n Llwyfan.

Mr Wyn Jones said his biggest problem was dealing with the snow drifts, which had caused snow to accumulate 8-9ft high in some higher fields. However, he has managed to get extra feed to the sheep and move some of his flock lower down the hill.

“The sheep are alright. It looks like a winter wonderland, but it’s a bit of a disaster for us,” he told Farmers Weekly. “The cows are calving. The snow is blowing in. We don’t start lambing until next week – hopefully, it will have gone by then.”

In Kinross, eastern Scotland, cattle and Lleyn sheep farmer Jonathan Sloan said no snow had fallen on the farm in the past week.

However, sub-zero temperatures had caused water pipes to freeze, affecting the drinking water supplies in cattle sheds and to the farm’s glamping pods.

“We have also noticed a real lack of water/rain with burns. Levels are extremely low for this time of year,” said Mr Sloan.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual has issued advice to people working and living in the countryside on how to deal with frozen pipes and prepare for the thaw.

The Met Office said the cold weather was expected to continue into the weekend in many places. Next week, low pressure from the west will drive strong winds and heavy rain across much of the UK.

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