Thaw points for farmers

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THIS week’s thaw eases pressure on farmers struggling to keep livestock watered.

It also brings gushing burst pipes, but means a halt to buildings coming down under the weight of snow.

Last week Galashiels-based co-operative Borders Machinery Ring (BMR) was still busy helping farmers with feed and fuel deliveries, and co-ordinating farmers’ efforts to help each other in the run-up to Christmas.

BMR assistant manager Stephen Young explained the co-operative’s work in the latter stages of the freeze: “We were trying to help people get fuel deliveries wherever possible. We were hiring bowsers so members could collect their own fuel if they couldn’t get deliveries in and we were keeping feed orders moving.

“If people were running short of feed we were helping them, co-ordinating, for example, farmers who have got spare hay and getting it to ones who needed it and working with feed companies co-ordinating deliveries, telling them where they could and couldn’t go.”

NFU Scotland regional manager Lisa Roberts said last week: “Anecdotally, there were reports that people generally were panic buying fuel and we urged people to make sure that if they said they needed fuel that they really did need it. People were buying when they didn’t really need it and it created a backlog.”

She said an on-going concern is farmers are using winter feed stocks much earlier than planned while, consequently, costs to buy in feed have “rocketed”.

She had heard there could have been as many as 50 farm buildings lost so far.

“We only really hear of the people who are trying to claim insurance on buildings. There will be people who are not insured.

“But farmers are just getting on with it. Farmers have good community spirit and everybody is helping each other out where and when possible.“

Last week at the NFU Mutual office in St Boswells, Nina Clancy said: “We have 10 sheds down. There are several others that are partly down and there have been many vehicle accidents, gutters down and burst pipes when we had the (last) thaw.”

Meanwhile, last week the union called on the Scottish Government to make “lifeline” Less Favoured Area Support Scheme payments (LFASS) as soon as possible as hill and upland farmers ate into their cash flow, buying in emergency feed and fuel and finding shelter for stock.