Farming under snow in the British Isles

Here in the British Isles our land is covered by snow. Far more snow than we expect in March. This is a real problem if you have sheep or cattle, grazing and lambing or calving outside. Or if you’re dairying but the tanker can’t reach you to collect the milk. Or if your farm is arable and you’re not able to sow your crops.

It’s a tale of horror for farmers across the British Isles, particularly in the northern and western parts. In this unseasonal weather, thousands of animals are feared dead.

Eddie Gillanders at The Scotsman tells us how the recent snow has devastated sheep, beef and dairy farmers. It’s about animals being buried under snowdrifts. They shelter behind walls when it’s cold, and mothers lie down to make shelter for their young, but that can backfire when snow drifts onto them. Animals bred to survive harsh weather can live under a snowdrift but only for a little while. You’ll need a strong stomach to watch this film about trapped sheep.

It’s also about animals being hungry. Mr Gillanders reminds us that fuel to get to the livestock, and feed to give to them, are expensive now after last year’s hard times. That’s if the farmer hasn’t run out of feed. If you started the winter with stores of hay, silage, roots or grain, you might be running low by this time of year.

All of this is going on at lambing time. Philip Case at Farmers Weekly says that this late snow couldn’t have come at a worse time.

A times of crisis like this, the Armed Forces come through with help. Just now animal feed is being delivered by Army helicopters. But what will be left when the snow’s gone? Farmers in Britain were already hard-pressed and that’s true, also, in the Republic of Ireland. The weather doesn’t care about political boundaries. Snow falls, animals die and farmers fight against the cold.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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One Response to Farming under snow in the British Isles

  1. Pingback: Coldest March for the UK since 1962 | Science on the Land

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