Farming businesses in the Sleaford area are being called upon to rally round and help desperate, flood-hit farmers in Cumbria and Lancashire.
Heavy rain from Storm Desmond caused rivers to burst their banks in Cumbria last week, devastating swathes of rural countryside, leaving farmers cut off, sweeping away livestock, animal feed and pasture.
Now Forage Aid, a charity founded by Leadenham farmer Andrew Ward, is coming to the rescue by supplying those in dire need with the means to keep their animals alive until they can get back on their feet.
The scheme was set up three years ago in response to the harsh winter snow falls which hit northern Britain and Wales. Farmers, agricultural firms and hauliers pulled together to deliver desperately needed animal food and bedding. The call went out again last year after the Somerset floods and the charity’s trustees are mobilising again.
Mr Ward said: “We only got charitable status this spring and we are just setting up our operating procedures. Our mission is to help farmers suffering from extreme environmental events, such as this situation where everything happens suddenly.”
He went on: “We are currently getting hauliers on board and asking for donations of animal bedding and food.”
If any hauliers or farmers want to help then go to the website www.forageaid.org to log your interest.
Mr Ward said: “We are getting a massive response as farmers now know about Forage Aid. We work with the Farm Community Network who inspect the farm and assess its needs to see how much food they need, then we will send it straight out.
“I will be going over there on Monday or Tuesday. The situation is very dire. There is a couple of farms that have been swept away by landslides - the complete side of a hill falling away taking the farm buildings and house.”
Forage Aid also works with the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution – a welfare charity which helps farming people in financial difficulty, the Prince’s Countryside Fund, the National farmer’s Union and Young Farmers Clubs.
With a regional coordinator already on the scene assessing the situation in Cumbria, they will marry up donations to farmers in need and arrange for loads to be dropped off at nine appointed storage locations near main roads for easy access, mainly around livestock markets.
Mr Ward explained: “A lot of the farmers are in the hills and most of the haulage we get is for free, so the last thing we want to do is send a lorry into a situation where it gets stuck.”
The charity has forklifts and tractors loaned by JCB and other companies ready to unload the lorries and if farmers cannot get over to pick up the food themselves, the volunteers will take the delivery to them. Bailey Trailers of Sleaford has loaned three flat-bed straw bale trailers from their fleet of demonstration equipment and will be sending them up to Cumbria on Monday morning.
Sales director Michael Bailey said: “We had seen the pictures of the floods and when Andrew needed some trailers, I said we had plenty if it would do any good.”