Lamb deaths add to farmers’ woes as drifts continue to pile on the pressure

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SPRING is still nowhere in sight as bitterly cold conditions continue to cause misery across the UK.

Farmers are counting the cost of the wintry weather, which has left livestock buried under snow drifts and claimed the lives of newborn lambs.

An RAF Chinook helicopter was yesterday drafted in to airlift fodder and provisions to farms in Northern Ireland, where as many as 10,000 animals are feared to have died.

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said the weather was “knocking the stuffing out of the farming industry”, which is already under pressure from last year’s record rainfall.

Yorkshire farmers have also been hit by sheep stock losses but not of the same severity as their counterparts in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the union said.

Dennis Stott, 47, said he had spent hours digging a route to his flock of 1,000 pregnant ewes on Blackwood Farm in Rishworth near Halifax.

His farm is 1,100ft above sea level, leaving his stock at the mercy of the prevailing easterly winds that have caused snow drifts to blanket 6ft dry stone walls, trapping sheep huddled up against them.

Mr Stott said: “It’s not the amount of snow, it’s the wind that’s blowing it and the drifts it’s causing.

“We’ve got the dog sniffing out the sheep under the snow because they have been stuck by drifts and we’ve lost one or two.

“They have been getting bunched up under the wall and when the drifts blow up they are getting trapped. We can’t reach them all. Without the dog you’d walk right over them.”

Thousands of people were still without power yesterday in Argyll in Scotland and the Isle of Arran after ice and snow damaged pylons and wreaked havoc on the electricity network.

And many roads remained impassable as the dangerous wintry weather showed no signs of abating.

Around households and farms in Tyersal Lane, near the Leeds-Bradford border were awaiting snow ploughs last night after being cut off since Friday by snow drifts. Resident Julie Angus said: “We are all totally stranded.”

Leeds City Council pledged that help would soon be on its way.

Meanwhile, two key cross-Pennine routes, the A628 Woodhead Pass from South Yorkshire to Greater Manchester, and the A66 from Cumbria to the north east, were reopened yesterday after four days.