UK storms: Aid effort under way for deluged farmers

Flood water continues to cover farmland close to James Winslade"s West Yeo Farm and Newhouse Farm in Moorland on the Somerset Levels Farmers including James Winslade have had to move cattle from their land

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Farmers have been among those worst hit by the effects of devastating flooding in Somerset. On Tuesday David Cameron announced a £10m fund to support their recovery, but other practical offers of help are already arriving by the lorry load.

From all around England the aid is starting to trickle in.

The tractors from Yorkshire are bringing silage, hay and straw, while hundreds of tonnes of sugar beet from Cambridgeshire are already being delivered to those most in need.

Farmers from Lincolnshire and Shropshire are also donating what they can to help those whose land has been drenched during the wettest January on record.

Animals at risk

Cattle feed in a barn in front of a flooded farm yard in the village of Thorney along the road to Muchelney on January 24, 2014 near Langport in Somerset, England.

Somerset vet Sally Wilson told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today that saturated farmland could lead to livestock being infected with disease.

"Any type of stress that an animal is put under increases the chances of them getting disease, so for example calves are more likely to succumb to diseases such as pneumonia, and dairy cattle are more likely to succumb to diseases such as mastitis."

Many farmers have also started lambing season early, she said, which could cause more problems.

"Everything is so wet and damp and once the lambs get wet then that will increase the chances of hypothermia in baby lambs."

The aid is being sent to Sedgemoor livestock market, in Bridgwater, which has become the makeshift distribution centre.

Farmers Weekly chief reporter Johann Tasker said a corner of the market was being used to store the batches of feed and bedding.

"It's all a little bit ad hoc with people trying to do what they can," he said.

"The market is quite quiet at the moment. There's not yet a steady stream of deliveries."

Mr Tasker said farmers whose land had been flooded were "overwhelmed emotionally" and full of gratitude for the support from elsewhere.

"It is a very emotional time," he said. "I was speaking to people yesterday and they admit they have cried over the situation.

"Many farmers were short on feed because they were flooded last year.

"For a farmer to admit he can't feed his livestock is like a suburban family admitting that they can't feed their children."

'All in it together'

Farmers' co-operative Camgrain launched its own appeal for crops to be sent to Somerset on Tuesday and vice chairman Dave White said he was "immensely pleased" with the early response.

"We only put the appeal out late yesterday afternoon and we've already got enough offers to make a lorry load up," the Cambridgeshire farmer said.

"We've also got members who have surplus hay and straw that we're sending down to the South West.

"As arable farmers in the East, we suffered a wet autumn last year and our members struggled to get crops grown, so we really can empathise with the much worse situation they're suffering.

"We all pull together, we don't think of ourselves as being in competition as other industries may do. We're all in it together."

Cattle at James Winslade"s farm wait to be fed in Moorland Many farms in Somerset were already low on feed after flooding last year
Farmer James Winslade looks at flood damage at his flooded farm in Moorland on January 28, 2014 in Somerset, England. The third-generation farmer, whose family has been farming the area for 150 years, calculates 94 percent of his farmland is under water Farmer James Winslade believes 94% of his land is under water
Farmer Roger Forgan and his partner Linda Maudsley (not pictured) use a boat to cross farm land to get from their farm (pictured) which has been cut off by flood waters near the village of Muchelney on January 30, 2014 in Somerset Some farms have been completely cut off and are accessible only by boat

Farmers around the Levels fear it could take up to two months for their fields to drain - and only then once the downpours stop.

Nick Bragg, Somerset chairman of the National Farmers' Union, said while the aid delivered so far had been "very well received", other support already pledged would prove priceless in the coming months.

"Companies have offered to subsidise grass seeds which will be needed further into the spring, so that's a tremendous help," he said.

"There have been other areas that people have very generously been considering other than just the instant needs."

Back at the Sedgemoor livestock market, farmer Graham Glasper was left "speechless" by the donations arriving.

"I just couldn't believe how many people had got together to help out," he told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today.

But Mr Glasper warned how the effort to support the farmers and their livestock would be "endless".

"We sorted one battle in getting them out of the floods but now there's another to keep them fed."

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