Yorkshire’s farming community is digging deep in support of the fraternity of their colleagues whose farmland has been devastated by the severe floods in the Southwest and Southeast.
Helplines run by rural charities set up to aid farmers in crisis report receiving huge volumes of calls from across the region as rural communities have looked on in horror at the pictures broadcast daily of thousands of acres of submerged fields, particularly in the Somerset Levels.
Members of West Yorkshire-based Barugh and District Ploughing Association filled two 15-tonne trailers with donated silage, haylage, hay and straw this week, which were then transported by tractors - driven by Wakefield farmer Philip Rowbottom and his neighbour Andrew Nicholson, who runs an agricultural contracting business - 225 miles to Bridgwater in Somerset; a ten-hour journey.
Mr Rowbottom, a member of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “We deliberately wanted to take the donations by tractor and trailer to help highlight the plight of farmers so desperately in need on the Somerset Levels. The response from the local farming community has been amazing – in fact it only took a day to get more than we needed for a single load.
“Yorkshire has had its fair share of severe flooding, so we know only too well the heart-break it can bring. Seeing the situation develop over recent days in Somerset left many of us wanting to help and show just how the farming industry can respond.”
The NFU’s regional director Richard Pearson added: “The NFU is working round the clock to provide direct support to our members in the South West and to help co-ordinate the crisis response on the ground. In the North East, our members have really risen to the challenge, with donations ranging from feed and bedding, as in this instance, through to the offer of dry ground in the form of rearing facilities for beef cattle.
The National Beef Association has received many phone calls asking for information about the cattle on the Somerset Flats and the other main areas which have been affected by the severe flooding, chief executive Chris Mallon said.
“The main concern for all of the farmers who are being affected at this current time is the welfare of their livestock. They farm 365 days a year and they are there to care for their animals, this weather is making it almost impossible for them to do that.”
The affected areas are home to many suckler and dairy farms. Some cattle have been moved to safety and on most farms grain, hay and silage stores have been destroyed or are inaccessible resulting. Electronic systems in milking parlours have been destroyed.
Sally Conner, North East regional manager for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, said: “Things are getting pretty busy with us at the moment and I have had lots of queries from the people of Yorkshire about how we can help those who are affected by the flooding.”
How you can help
The NFU in the South West is asking rural communities not to set off on fodder ‘treks’ to help flood-stricken farmers, but to pledge offers of fodder feed and straw by calling its offices on 01392 440700.
NFU regional director Melanie Squires said pledges of fodder or straw, rather than the actual deliveries, are now needed so the NFU can call upon people’s generosity as and when it is required over the coming weeks and months, when the waters finally abate and farmers return to face a fetid swamp.