Farmers worry as rain deals threat to sales and animal feed stocks

John Hepburn ,of Northhouse Farm, who has been toiling in the terrible weather
John Hepburn ,of Northhouse Farm, who has been toiling in the terrible weather

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almost worthless if it is sold to manufacturers when mouldy and matted, so farmers have delayed clipping until flocks are dry.

And the spoiling of silage crops – used to nourish livestock during the coldest months of the year – could mean that farmers are forced later on this year to spend thousands of pounds in supplementing self-produced stocks with bought-in feed.

Ian Hepburn and his family should have completed clipping 6,000 sheep more than two weeks ago but still have 2,000 to go due to the inclement weather and resultant wet coats. Mr Hepburn, of Northhouse Farm, near Newmill, said lamb and silage production were of similar concern.

“Our sheep have to be dry to clip,” he explained. “The sheep pens are a mess and we can’t work with the sheep there because we have to keep their wool dry. We should be selling prime lambs now, but they’re not ready. They need sun and heat to grow.

“The markets are all saying the same, they’re well short. One guy I spoke to at a market said he normally shifts 100 lambs in a week, but that was down to 60 this week.

“The lambs will all go, but it’ll take longer to get them away. If we can’t sell lambs we don’t have cash coming in. It hasn’t affected our cash flow yet but it will do.

“For our silage, we put fertiliser onto the fields to grow grass. But, the longer before we get it cut, the quality of silage starts to disappear. A lack of silage will increase our bills in winter because we will have to buy in feed.”

John Shell, 60, of Wiltonburn Farm, just outside the town, says the recent summer rainfall is unprecedented and could spell “disaster” should it continue.

“Crops are suffering badly from the wet, especially spring barley,” he said. “You need a dry spell of weather for the fertiliser spray to have an affect, and one of the biggest problems at the moment is getting heavy machinery into the fields.

“If it carries on like this, we might struggle at harvest time. The yields are going to be much, much less.

“I would hate to think what it’d be like if this carries on through. It would be a disaster.

“I’ve seen us have wet harvests, but not at this time of year.”

Norman Bridgewater, of Borthaugh Farm, near Branxholme, has played a waiting game for the past three weeks but hopes to be able to produce a sufficient amount of silage for use in the winter.

He said: “If it’s pouring rain, the crop just wastes. For about three weeks, we’ve been waiting.

“We can work with the sheep in the meantime, but it’s the silage crops that are being held back. The crops will be less and not as good quality.

“If the weather picks up, it might be okay. But, until you get your crops cut, you don’t know how much you’ll have. You assume you’ll have enough.”