Farmers say wet weather is having deadly impact on lambing season

  • Report by Rural Affairs Correspondent Hannah Thomas

With one of the wettest winters on record in Wales, March and April have so far seen little let up, leaving farmers unable to plant crops and put livestock outside.

With agriculture emitting millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, it's a sharp reminder of the role the industry plays in tackling climate change.

In Pendolyan in the Vale of Glamorgan, farmer Tom Rees has been up to his ankles in water.

Farmer Tom Rees struggling to navigate his way through his fields

This time of year he should be sowing spring barley in this field, but that window has passed. Instead he'll have to plant maize, but it's still a mystery when, "[There's] no sign of it drying up.

"It won't go in for at least another month or six weeks at this rate. It's going to take a long time to dry before we can get on the ground and spread muck, and then plough it.

"I just despair to know when we will get it in. Since last July we've had non-stop rain. It's the worst farming year that I've ever known since I've been home from college.

"And I've been home 15 years. It's rain on rain on rain."

Despite the soggy weather, calving has been taking place but this year Tom is having to do it in the barn for the first time where it's dry.

In Ynysybwl, Mathew Isaac has lost 30 lambs to the weather.

It means some have developed joint problems due to being exposed to the wet conditions.

Mathew Isaac has lost dozens of lambs due to complications from the wet weather

"Anything that's a little bit weak, they fall by the wayside," says Mathew.

"You're picking up dead lambs in the morning then. We're at the limit of where we keep the sheep inside.

"When they're born they're only 24 or 48 hours old, and then they moved out. There's no way you could keep all the ewes in with all the lambs.

"The disease burden in here then would be greater than what it is outside."

The effects of climate change have been blamed for the increased rainfall, making 2023 one of the wettest years since records began.

Farmers should be sowing spring barley in their fields, but for mainy they are too waterlogged. Credit: ITV Wales

Abi Reader, from the NFU, told ITV that farmers recognise the important part they play in the fight against climate change.

She said, "We've got a commitment at NFU Cymru for net zero by 2040. There are a number of steps we can put in place to do that, but we can't do it on our own.

She wants more help from the Welsh Government in reaching solutions to the climate crisis. "We're going to have to have help because producing food for the nation is a collective responsibility.

"You need to make sure that this money comes to help us deal with problems like this, because the weather is going to become more and more volatile", Abi Reader said.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Significant changes to our climate and weather will continue to develop over the next few decades, and it is essential that we take steps now to build resilience to the potential impacts of climate change.

“In 2023 Wales experienced one of the wettest years on record and, in July alone, we received close to 200% of the long-term average rainfall.

“We are currently monitoring the impact the wet weather may have on farmers in Wales, including through the UK wide Agriculture Market Monitoring Group.”

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