Isle of Man farmer: Sheep deaths in snow are a disaster

26/03/13

Sheep on snowy hillside on Isle of Man

Farmers say their livelihoods are at risk as severe weather across parts of the UK claims the lives of thousands of sheep and cattle - including newborn lambs.

The late snow has hit during lambing season, with many animals getting buried.

Daniel Creer, 24, is a sheep farmer in the Isle of Man.

He's trying to rescue some of his five thousand sheep from drifts nearly four metres high.

Daniel Creer, young farmer
Image caption Daniel has been digging his sheep out of snow drifts for five days

"It's an absolute disaster," he said.

"Since Friday we've been spending all day digging sheep out."

The ewes on his land have not started giving birth yet but many are pregnant and stranded on the hillside.

The cold also means there is little for the sheep to eat.

"This afternoon I'm going to move sheep off some of the fields on the west of the island because all the grass is buried by the snow," said Daniel.

"There's no feed in the fields. Those sheep up there have taken some horrendous losses."

'Heartbreaking'

The National Farmers' Union says some people risk losing an entire year's income due to the unusually cold weather.

Daniel said he expecting to have already lost up £2,500 in a short period of time.

"The financial strain is going to be extreme," he added.

"It's extremely depressing and heartbreaking. It's not something you can really describe - they're not just your livelihoods, they're animals you take quite a bit of pride in.

"And there's absolutely nothing you can do."

Sheep on snowy hillside on Isle of Man. Picture by Daniel Creer
Image caption Animals are also struggling to find anything to eat on the Isle on Man's snow-covered hillsides.

The recent snowfall in the Isle of Man has been the heaviest recorded since 1963.

The cold weather has also hit farmers particularly hard in Wales, Cumbria and southern Scotland.

And an RAF Chinook helicopter is due to droop food to thousands of animals stranded in severe weather in Northern Ireland.

The number that have died is not yet known.

But Daniel said the weather would have a lasting impact on farmers' livelihoods.

"This will still be being felt for a good two to three years down the road," he said.

"The amount of lambs lost all through the UK does not bear thinking about."

Hundreds of homes are still without power across Northern Ireland, Cumbria and Scotland - with many roads still blocked.

Forecasters say the cold weather is due to continue.

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