There’s an old agricultural saying, ‘Where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock’, but the stoicism has been little comfort to sheep farmers this spring.
The recent snowfall and bitter winds that have hit the borderlands have placed many ewes and their lambs in danger at a crucial time in their lives.
One farmer with experience of lambing on both sides of the border said that while the coldest March in over half a century is making life difficult, the problem has been longer term.
“It really goes back to last year with the weather,” he said. “The ewes have never had any sun on their backs, they never got their fettle on them, and the lambs are suffering with that now. It’s just one thing after another.
“Prices will probably go up,” but farmers may not necessarily recoup what they have lost through extended feed bills, having had to provide artificial feed for longer due to a lack of grass growth.
“You just cannot win,” he added. “There are some poor farmers who don’t have sheds to keep their lambs in, so they must be doing even worse.
“You can protect your lambs a bit out in the fields, you can put these plastic jackets on them, but not against the temperatures we’re getting.”
The weather has also had an adverse effect on the delivery of vital feed and fuel stocks in more remote areas.
Feed delivery problems could be eased by the Department of Transport’s announcement that it has agreed to a temporary relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours and working time rules for those involved in the distribution of animal feed.
This temporary relaxation applies from Sunday March 24 and will run until Saturday March 30.