FARMERS in Scotland could be facing economic ruin as experts say some may lose up to £16,000 from last month’s heavy snow and freezing winds.
Livestock on farms across Scotland were lost due to the cold weather, and the financial consequences are beginning to emerge.
With figures or national losses still to be calculated, John Forster, an agricultural consultant with the Scottish Agricultural Colleges, said that some of the worst hit farmers could face losing thousands.
He said: “Sheep farmers will be hit especially.
“Although no one knows the true cost of the weather, hill farmers might be losing up to 200 ewes, which is 200 lambs and at £80 each, that could be £16,000, which is quite catastrophic.”
He added: “Dairy farmers have also been hit, due to road blockages. This means that some distributors have not been able to get to farms, which means this milk has gone to waste – which costs the farmers.
“It caused mayhem. Between road blocks, electricity and the loss of sheep for hill farmers.”
East Drumlemble Farm in Kintyre suffered through 6 days with no power and 3 days without access to main roads, but were lucky enough to have all their animals inside before the weather turned nasty.
Catherine Ralston, 58, who lives on the farm with her family said she had not yet thought of her own financial loss, but knows those around her could be worse off.
She said: “It is the hill farmers near us that are going to be the worst hit. I have heard one has lost over 100 ewes, and that’s a lot.
“Nobody is complaining though. We just have to get on with it, and the community are pulling together.”
Blocked roads have also been causing problems for local dairy farmers in the Kintyre area.
A spokesperson for the National Farmers Union in Scotland (NFUS), has said that due to snow covered roads some dairy farmers were having to pour milk down the drain.
They said: “Although it’s impossible to say how much money will have been lost, for some individual farms it will have a devastating impact.
“One big cost will be for dairy farms who have had to throw milk away. Cows still need to be milked so they can’t wait until the roads clear. That could potentially be a big cost.”
Although, more remote and northern areas of Scotland were affected most by the snow. Farms from across the country are reporting that they could be heading for potential losses.
Crosswoodhill Farm in West Lothian, which managed to avoid the heavier snow drift and losses of livestock , fear that when they start to lamb the effects of the snow could show
Hew Hamilton, who runs Crosswoodhill, said: “The cost of feed is one of the biggest effects right now, the financial costs are affecting us dramatically.
“This will continue too. Because of the snow covering, the ewes haven’t been able to feed as much.
“This means that we have a lot of lean ewes now, so it is going to be very difficult when we start lambing.
“Luckily, we haven’t lost any sheep in the drifts, but I’m sure we will when lambing starts.”
Farms in the South of Scotland will also be feeling the pinch.
Richard Philipps of Cormiston Farm in Biggar, said the recent snow could hurt his business in a number of ways.
He said: “Because our land is covered we have had to supply the animals with feed, and we have even had to go into next year’s stock, which means we are going to be short.
“Although, we haven’t lost any animals, the cost to feed them still means we are losing out.
“We are potentially going to be feeling the impact of the snow for months.”
The Scottish Government say they will try to ease some of the pressure on farmers.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “I have convened a special agricultural task force to drive forward the action needed to tackle these issues quickly.
“The immediate priority is to minimise both livestock losses and suffering but we recognise that in coming days we need to support the industry as it begins to work out the cost of this extreme weather.
“We have worked quickly to source appropriate help and specialist equipment and match it with the need on the ground.”
Compensation will be available to help farmers meet the cost of disposing of animals lost due to the severe weather, and £500,000 has been made available by the Scottish Government.