Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Livestock being frozen to death in their thousands
As heavy snow brought more chaos to Scotland yesterday, upland sheep farmers in particular feared that their flocks could be killed as a result of the longest cold spell to hit Scotland's agricultural industry for decades.
The prolonged Arctic blast is now the worst seen in Scotland since 1963, according to First Minister Alex Salmond, who praised workers for keeping key roads open, despite widespread anger that many roads and pavements remain ungritted.
The cold spell is now threatening the lives of thousands of farm animals across the country.
Upland sheep farmers fear that their flocks could be killed as a result of deep snow. Those in hilly areas of the country, where snow drifts are already up to 4ft deep, are finding it increasingly difficult to get vital feed to their herds of cows and flocks of sheep.
Pat Withers, the chief executive of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, told The Scotsman: "We have some fields where farmers are looking out and can't get to their flocks. They can just see the heads of their sheep poking up above the snow. One more snowfall there – and a bit of wind picking up – and they will lose them."
Mr Withers said the problem was particularly acute in the Highlands, Moray, Aberdeenshire and the Borders.
Some farmers have been unable, for up to eight days, to get vital supplies of supplementary feed to their livestock. They are also being hit by delays in suppliers reaching them along treacherous rural routes.
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead, who is being kept fully briefed on the deteriorating situation, said: "Scotland is in the grip of the harshest winter weather conditions in decades, which is adding to the weight of challenges faced by farmers at this time of year.
"I have been in contact with farmers and industry organisations to keep abreast of the problems created by this unusually bad weather."
Schools and roads all over the country were closed yesterday, with the Borders, North-east and Highlands bearing the brunt of the bad weather.
Last night, several hundred homes in the Kelso and Duns areas of the Borders were without electricity after heavy snow brought down power lines.
A ScottishPower spokesman said engineers were trying to restore supplies as quickly as possible.
Heavy snow and temperatures as low as -11C caused further disruption to roads, railways and airports across the country.
A woman died in a car crash in Shetland, while a 59-year-old pedestrian was seriously injured when he was hit by a car in Aberdeen. Both accidents are believed to be weather-related.
The Met Office said its predicted low of -20C by the weekend would hit sheltered inland areas such as Braemar, with parts of the Central Belt down to -11C by tonight.
The Borders was worst hit by yesterday's snowfall, with major routes such as the A7, A68 and A702 blocked or extremely hazardous.
Police said drivers should not take to the roads "unless it is a life-or-death situation", while all the region's First bus services were cancelled.
The A9 – the main route to the Highlands – reopened, but conditions were "atrocious" and other roads in the north and North-east remained blocked.
ABERDEENSHIRE farmer Tom Johnston spoke of the concerns facing farmers.
Mr Johnston, North East regional chairman of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, said: "With the volume of snow there is no feed (for animals] except for the feed that you are taking out to them. With lambs and ewes it's important to keep them on a good ration and you have to get feed out on a daily basis. The job is extremely difficult because of the snow and ice.
The danger is that if we get windy weather and the snow blows you get drifts and sheep can actually be buried in the snow."
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