Farmers' fears in wake of flooding across North Yorkshire and County Durham (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Farmers' fears in wake of flooding across North Yorkshire and County Durham
FARMERS left counting the cost of this week’s floods say the freak weather could have a devastating impact on their livelihoods.
Many farms in the region are under water – the result of incessant rain that has brought work to a standstill at one of the busiest times of the year.
Having already suffered a disappointing harvest, the floods could not have come at a worse time, sparking fears of under-strength yields and higher prices.
For livestock farmers, standing water has meant they have had to take their animals inside far sooner than they would have liked, and the quality of silage – fodder that is fed to cattle and sheep – is expected to be poor.
On many farms, cows will have to remain inside until May, with farmers bearing the additional costs of feeding them.
Angela Garbutt, who operates a dairy farm with her husband, Alan, in Danby Wiske, near Northallerton , North Yorkshire, said the floods were the latest blow in what had been an extremely difficult year.
Their fields are waterlogged, they have not been able to sow corn, the grass seed they have so far sown is under water and they have not been able to harvest their silage crops to feed the livestock.
She said: “We only managed to get five acres of grass sown before the floods. We’d probably reseed 30 to 40 acres by now.
“We’ll never get in the fields to put corn in, so we’ll have to make other arrangements.
“But the main thing for us has been how difficult it has made it to harvest the silage crops. Because of the weather this year, the quality of grain and silage is down,pushing winter feed costs up.
“In monetary terms, it’s equal to two-and-a-half pence on the production costs of a litre of milk.
“It’s the worry of it all.
Everybody is concerned because it’s unprecedented.
“It’s been the same for farmers across the board. But we’re trying to keep upbeat because there’s a lot of farmers out there who are in a worse situation, whose farms have been completely flooded.”
Organic business Acorn Dairy, at Archdeacon Newton, near Darlington, usually takes its cows in from the fields in October, but decided last Monday it was too wet for them to stay out.
Director Graham Tweddle said: “The sheer volume of water meant they were poaching (damaging) the fields.
“They’re now on their full winter rations, which is costing us more.”
Many arable farmers are also worried that unless flood waters recede soon they will miss out on the planting window for their autumn crops.
Malcolm Rayfield, who has an arable farm near Appleton Wiske, Thirsk , North Yorkshire, said the situation was not far off dire for many farmers.
He said: “The worst scenario is that the water doesn’t clear next week, because then we won’t be able to plant autumn crops.
“We’ll have to wait and go on to spring crops, which don’t yield anything like the autumn crops.
“All is not lost – but we do need the ground to dry out now. Farmers are watching their fields with their fingers crossed at the moment.
“It’s not far off dire.”