Adverse weather advice to farmers and crofters: August 2018

Update from Agricultural Weather Advisory Panel in relation to the recent prolonged dry weather period.

The Agricultural Weather Advisory Panel met on 8 August and heard an update on the weather from the Met Office.

Most parts of Scotland have experienced warm and dry weather through the Summer period to date. Around 73% of the normal level of rain has fallen during the months of May, June and July, with July's rain falling predominately in the last four days of the month. Much of this rainfall has run-off the land because of the dry soil conditions and this has not helped matters from a farming perspective.

Although the Weather since the end of July has been a little more unsettled with rain affecting many parts, it is expected that drier warmer weather could return from mid-August through into September.

The prolonged dry period over the summer period has had an impact upon farming and this comes on the back of a prolonged and persistent wet period over the summer, autumn and winter last year, and the late cold period leading to a delayed onset of spring this year.

Amongst other problems, the dry weather has limited the growth in grass used for making silage or livestock grazing purposes and this has resulted in the need for farmers and crofters to use up feed and fodder stocks that were being saved for use in the winter ahead. In other cases, it is reported that some farmers have had no choice but to sell on their livestock early.

The Panel discussed the short-term implications of continued dry and warm weather and agreed to highlight the importance of the following points of advice to farmers and crofters:

  • plan and act now, in advance of the Autumn and Winter ahead. Leaving it too late will only result in problems
  • familiarise yourself with livestock nutritional and feed budget requirements and seek advice where required from appropriate sources, including feed merchants, animal nutrition advisers and the Farm Advisory Service. Free advice can be obtained by dialling 0300 323 0161 or e-mailing
  • consider use of alternative livestock bedding materials and feedstuffs
  • if there is an opportunity to do so consider growing a catch crop such as temporary grass, fodder rape or stubble turnips. Forage brassicas provide an extremely cost effective way of supplementing livestock rations during times when fodder may be scarce
  • actively explore opportunities for collaboration such as speaking to other farmers and entering into joint purchasing arrangements; straw for muck deals; and making temporary use of underutilised grazing land or catch crops in other parts of the country through mutual arrangements
  • consider the merits of entering into longer term animal feed and fodder supply contracts
  • speaking to your bank about your financial situation as soon as possible will assist with financial planning over the longer term and may also help to smooth out any short to medium term cash-flow issues. The banks are there to help farm businesses plan for their future
  • look out for your own welfare and don't hesitate to speak early to friends or relatives, or phone one of the care organisations such as RSABI, the Samaritans or Breathing Space. The first step is to talk about your feelings. RSABI can be contacted on 0300 111 4166 24.

The Panel also discussed the importance of effective longer-term business planning and resilience and the need for rural businesses to prepare and actively consider now the impact of long-term changes in Scotland's climate and weather conditions.

The Panel heard from the Met Office that average temperatures have risen by approximately 1 degree Celsius over the last twenty or so years and that if this trend continues it is not unreasonable to expect further extreme weather events and episodes to become more frequent in future. The Panel therefore agreed to develop further advice and recommendations on how farmers and crofters can better prepare for the future.

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