Letter: No care for sheep in cold weather

I have heard farmers talking about how they found their sheep dead in the snow and how upset they were because of the money lost.


Farmers, if you cared enough for your sheep and lambs why don’t you breed the lambs later in the season when the weather would be a lot better? You are in control of the breeding programme after all.

I feel farmers need a lot more humanity in looking after their animals especially the newborn, and if they looked upon them as sentient creatures rather then a money bag, we might have living lambs right now, instead of dead sheep found in the ditches and along the walls trying to seek shelter from the snow in Shropshire. These sheep are good mothers and should be treated with respect.

I found it extremely upsetting to hear mother sheep had died standing up over their new born lambs trying to shelter them from the snow.

Come on farmers, I expect you retreated to a nice warm house during this cold spell. What happened to the shelter you should have prepared for these sheep? You had plenty of warning about the cold weather to come.

Farmers have subjected their animals to a horrible death when they were supposed to be protecting them.

Susan Bulley


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Comments for: "Letter: No care for sheep in cold weather"

Andrew finch

In defence of the farmer i do think the writer is looking at this through rose tinted glasses, the snow has come late, most farmers brought the sheep closer to home and do when lambing if they were able to, and lets not forget the animal is is a cash making item and the source of living for the farmer , it would be like an antique dealer leaving his furniture outside to rot he will lose his investment, so any livestock lost is future income lost as such none is deliberate unless the individual is stupid. .


Talking about lost income I don't think most people are aware that farmers receive a subsidised payment from the government called a single farm payment on an annual basis and this can run into many thousands of pounds to look after their livestock/farms.

It was bad practice/uncaring to have left these animals to chance on the higher ground when adequate warning was given by the weather people two days before also the areas which were to be affected,they could have brought them to lower ground where they could be monitored and fed,how they must have suffered before their death,I thought that the weather would be part of a farmers job description

Most farmers are responsible and care for their animals first and just got on with it.

Good to hear that Alun Davies from the Welsh Assembly has made funds available to the farming charities for the farmers that depend on the family farm to live and are not part of a company or have other income


This issue is not so black and white. Lambing season starts in December, so end of March/beginning of April is fairly late in the season. The farmers I know were suffering from sunburn while lambing this time last year!

Also a lot of sheep and lambs were killed when the shelters that were provided collapsed under the weight of snow! Not something we usually expect in the UK.

Farming is a business and it is natural that farmers regard "stock" as an investment. It does not mean they do not care for the condition or plight of their charges. Some may not, all people vary, but the ones I know were up at all hours and in all conditions during lambing this year fighting against atrocious conditions. They were actually fairly lucky and lost very few, but they knew other farmers who were totally unable to reach and/or find their animals despite their best efforts.

Some level of detachment is required in any job dealing with living things. Doctors and nurses would be unable to do their jobs if they let every tragedy they see effect their emotions too much.



Cue vitriol...

Samantha Lister

I couldn't agree more. It is disgusting that so many animals kept by farmers are just pieces of a money-machine; it is so inhumane, and I'm sure their farming would improve if they actually considered the animals' welfare.


I take it you are a vegitarian then?

Lets not get too sentimental. Livestock are bred for human consumption or materials or milk or whatever, so for a farmer to lose some sheep does have an impact, which I do feel sorry for, but no more impact than an arable farmer who has had years of floods or drought or a shop that loses trade because people are snowed in and can not get out.

Weather happens all year, so unless the farmers etc adapt then this will continue and we will still be writing comments for years to come. If you want to survive in any industry then you have to adapt to the conditions that you operate in and from my limited knowledge - farming tends to happen outside


it would appear that farmers are being told off for producing food that we all eat , snow was late this year and yes a lot of animals were lost , not through fault of how farmers look after their flock ,the snow came in the middle of the night when most people were asleep, heavier in some places than others , and the time to get flocks onto ground without snow was impossible

You try getting planning permission to put a shed up to shelter animals!

You try and get sheep to breed any time of the year!

You try being a shepherd in the hills!

You try and break agriculture rules!

You try and buy sheep feed today, most feed mills are out of stock,

or we can only buy a small amount!

You try moving sheep about just when you want to.

Have you heard of the 6 day ruling?


A name would be nice, oh anonymous farmer...


Well done Susan! I've been a sheep farmer in the hills and know what intelligent shepherding is. Sheep are NOT stupid and they will try and find shelter - something most farms have, let's face it - as well as water and clean grazing. Lovely old adage that 'sheep shouldn't graze on their breakfasts'! With the weather forecast as it was, stock should have been moved closer to the homestead not left up 'in the hills'. A case of shutting the stable door and all that? Time some farmers reread the book on how to care for their stock and not bleat about their losses. As ever, of course there will be those excellent farmers who managed to look after their animals properly for which our thanks - and an example to those who lost theirs.


Bit smug aren't you , as the weather forecasts are so accurate you might beleive everyone they say . Did you predict the downpour this time last year after the near drought in february 2012. Sheep will stand some snow but when everyone realises that it's settled/snowstorm you couldnt see your hand in front of your face or hear any shouts/calls . If there were sheds for 600 sheep your famous cry of factory farming goes up or the welfare of intensive sheep production . Sheep belong in the hills to utilise every bit of land now that bio mass boilers are pricing grasskeep to extreme levels.


There are actually quite a few breeds that will lamb out of season. I lamb Dorset Downs which naturally cycle all year round and am looking into Dorpers (though South African, they too cycle year round). I always lamb end of November onwards so am used to the bad weather, but saying that, my girls come in at night and out during the day, though this last winter, with the ground being frozen, they had to stay in. With this last unexpected batch of bad weather, i do feel for the hill farmers, however! As i am used to lambing indoors, i have facilities and seeing that there was no grass as the ewes and lambs had eaten it all away, (i shut fields off around September so that there is grass in December) i didn't let them out, instead i kept them in. By the time they did go out, they were stir crazy! Though i admit that some farmers have no choice but to lamb outdoors, there should be a case for shelter for the animals, after all, they come first. I also can understand that some farmers might try to claim compensation for the dead animals, if that is the case, how about the ones affected by schmallenberg? I have been hit by that but somehow i can't see myself getting compensated for something out of my control. So should farmers be able to claim for the dead animals due to the bad weather? After all, that is also uncontrollable!

I think I speak for the majority of Shropshire Farmers in how upsetting some of these comments are.

Would you tell a nurse how to care for their patients? I doubt you would, so why should people tell farmers how to look after there animals when they've more than likely done a days work before you've had your breakfast.

Farmers work hard day in day out, every day weekday and every weekend and have worked harder than ever to the point of exhaustion during the harsh out of season weather conditions, so maybe some of you should have come and helped us out, like we would help you if your car got stuck in the snow or needed towing up the hill.

Farmers do everything in their power to ensure animal welfare is at the highest, farming is not a job, its a way of life. Britain have the highest animal welfare standards in the world, something people tend to forget.

I dont know one farmer that didnt do their upmost to save their animals, what would you make a shelter outof for 500 ewes and lambs? Big sheets of tin or wooden sheets that in the wind and snow would collaspe on them maybe?!

Trust me we did everything we could and I would dread to think how many animals would of died if it wasnt for your shropshire farmers

Morceau Placard

I helped and witnessed farmers trudging through the snow drifts up in the Shropshire Hills carrying sheep and lambs to ferry them to shelter Barns. FUNNY I DIDN'T SEE ANY TOWNIE FOLK OR CARLOADS OF TEENAGERS TURNING UP AND OFFERING ASSISTANCE TO HARD PRESSED FARMERS. So here's my point to town plebs ..who have never been near a lamb except in Tescco ..... put up ...or shut up ...... .

fed up

well here it is susan bulley, animal welfare is something that the vast,vast majority of farmers take very seriously after all this is their lively hood.

where as i appreciate your comments highlighting that some farmers,be it a very small minority see their stock as purely an income, i find the majority of your comments vitriolic,insensitive and derogatory.

in what other profession will you find an individual who is a dr,midwife,nurse,night watchman,security guard,adoptive parent,builder,mechanic etc all rolled into one,farming is not and never will be a five day,40 hr week,it is relentless,intensive,365 days a year in rain,snow,frost,hail,wind.

the farmer doesn't retire to his warm living room at the end of the day as you wrongly imply,during the lambing and calving they can be awake tending the animals all day and night, i have known some to not get any sleep in two days,48 hrs,or to some this is a full working week plus eight hrs overtime without a break.

it is not in the interest of any member of the agricultural community to wilfully allow their livestock to suffer,many of these farmers you seek to berate have their stock spread out over several fields,often not in the same area,some have to travel many miles between flocks carrying feed,medicine etc,so for those who were not able to move their stock it is a devastating scenario,not only lost income and expenditure but time invested, often at risk to their own health and to the detriment of family life.

maybe you should have volunteered to help during this extremely difficult time,taken a shovel and dug out some of these animals and brought them to your home,

no you were at home watching tv or penning your vitriol while the farming community were struggling to rescue their sheep,

your only concern is going to be how much you will have to pay for your sunday joint,oh and i would say to you,if you wish to understand animal cruelty then i suggest you look to our european counterparts,veal crate farms,battery pig crates etc.

think before you speak would be a good motto for you.

Agnes Mutton

This is possibly the most ridiculous letter I have ever read.

Nobody cares better for their sheep than our farmers, they know how they work, and they know that the best thing for their sheep is to treat them well. Farmers will have done their utmost to protect their "bags of money".

To generalise about the actions of "farmers" is patronising, as is the supposition that you know better than them about how to look after sheep.

I suggest Susan Bulley goes and lends a hand on a sheep farm herself, where she can justify her self-righteousness, while learning a thing or two in the process.


Susan I bet you wished you had kept your opinions to yourself ,

where is your SPRING lamb going to come from ?

You try getting hill sheep to come down to low ground and be crowded in a shed

and how on earth you could see your hand in front of your face in the storms

let alone find your way.

Hill sheep are designed to be outdoors not like yourself in a warm snug house.

Best to get your facts right before rubbing salt into the wounds of rugged ,weather beaten

arthritic folk who put the meat on your plate. The sheepskin rug each side your bed.

Baa Baa


Sounds like you are not happy in your work! Maybe a career change is needed if you can't stand it -

and to Morceau -

the townies that you refer to were probably trying to dig themselves out of their homes so had other things on their minds. To be a farmer is a choice. I am sure that when the blockades appear again to try to get 1p more for a litre of milk, the POOR farmer will not give a second thought for the "townies"

Tired, exhausted and heart broken

I am extremely distressed with the comments in the letter. In 2012 weather in early part of the year was dry and warm with the rain starting in May. Unfortunately farmers can not control the weather. I have just spent 2 weeks lambing, surviving on 4hrs sleep a day, whilst doing heavy manual work. To say I do not care is heartbreaking. My sheep and lambs are given the best care. Every death is a loss. We are trying to make a living from farming the land and maintaining the countryside so that the public can enjoy it. Please retract the comments from the letter or at least make an effort to visit a farm or college at lambing time and to spend 48hrs with a farmer. Even better go to welsh hill and offer to help those poor farmers bury there dead stock. Please please buy British food and British lamb and support your farmers who feed you.


I don't think anyone would say that farmers do not work hard. Many years ago I have worked on farms and seen first hand what farmers go through, but I can safely say that there is not much sentiment in livestock, they are for food. I very much doubt you name all of the lambs as they are born - tag them yes - but they are just a commodity.

Some of the comments are very harsh and probably un-justified but when all is said and done the loss of a sheep is like a broken vase in a shop, you will write it off as a stock loss

Phillip Watson

The townies who "were probably trying to dig themselves out of their homes so had other things on their minds" were probably only digging the car out to get to the road, and in most cases the worst scenario would've been a day of work missed. Admittedly there may have been situations with young children or the elderly that could've been more important, but surely neighbours help in times such as these.

Whilst the 'townie' was digging his 12 feet to the road, the farmer will have dug his way from the house, to some sheds. Then through some gateways and possibly to some more sheds. Then perhaps after a time tending to some livestock, attempt to find some more burried stock (still digging you see).

The 'townie', if failed to dig out of their drive, would probably have gone back inside to assess the situation/call in sick/call the neighbour/put the kettle on, whatever it is they see fit. The farmer would continue to dig until another buried animal was found.

Then perhaps he could go and look for some more animals who would have been re-buried by the previous night's wind/snow. At the time of the snow, I know most sheds were simply full of sheep. People complain these days when 'natural stock' is cramped up inside, yet they insist that these animals are kept inside when the weather is detrimental. How is the farmer supposed to win in that situation?

I'm sorry to have picked on the townie comments, but that was the tipping point.

I understand not everybody in a town feels like this, but perhaps the ones that feel so strongly could go and lend a hand to keep some of these animals alive, or perhaps rent a room out for some animals?

Food for thought.


"Townies" have their choice of jobs and so do farmers. Sorry for the pun but all the bleating about how hard it is to be a farmer - just change jobs. Go and sit by a fire when it snows, call in sick if you can't make it in to work


This is the most ignorant, narrow-minded letter in the Shropshire Star I've ever read.

Why don't farmers breed sheep later in the season?

Because they don't know 5 months in advance that we'll have unseasonable snow in April.


Never mind. We can grind up all the dead sheep and lambs and turn them into cattle feed (the public have forgotten all about BSE).


Try to keep up Gary, it is illegal to feed meat and bone meal to Ruminants. Just to ensure international shady practises are dealt with nor can they feed fishmeal to ruminants, as M&B meal was added illegally. As you are a member of the public and remembered BSE seems thats wrong too!!FAIL!


Please place tongue in cheek and read again.


Nope, tried again and if its meant to be funny it wasnt, not clever enough for it to be sarcasm. So thats why it looked like an ill informed veggie/townie comment, if it wasnt it just seems uncaring - so try harder!!


Brilliant - Townies and Villagers fighting each other


A lot of it is about the lack of knowledge that people do not realise how much the single farm payment is worth to some larger farm companies and is well in excess of £70k to one company farming the hils which also has other income in addition to their livestock sales income,I hope the farming charities look at their financials before allocating help funding them with the money given to them by Alun Davies AM from the Welsh assembly.

Tired exhausted/heartbroken - You seem to be a very caring farmer and can go to bed at night knowing you have done the best for your livestock and not leaving them to chance in the weather as some have done

Jenny Richards

Its not a case of Lambing later susan as i one of the letters states above Lambing starts early jan - end of april, the later you lamb the later everything else gets late.ie like the harvest that keeps the animals in food over the winter if you have cattle aswell & for growing swede's for before the winter and as for the weather well look at the last few years when have we had a proper spring,summer,autumn & winter.Yes the weather had been predicted but alot of the farmers that have lost sheep are the ones that live in rural area's on such high ground where this has happened had not expected such high winds which caused the snow drifts etc which in turn cut of many of the rds to the fields and if you could get to the fields there was no way of getting to them no machine ie the modern day tractor could get to them due to the severity of it.Most farmers that i know of did everything that they could have down to get to the sheep were possible in the small amount of time given and not forgetting that they would have already had sheep in sheds lambing at the time too.I am a farmers wife myself my husband and my 2 young children also on top off trying to keep our animals alive ourselves safe from danger were also cut off during the snow, we live 2 miles from the local village the only way out if i needed to get out after 4 days was on the modern day tractor before it became too dangerous then 1 week later the council sent a hymac digger to dig the rd out so it was suitable for a 4x4 to get out.I have seen what it had done first hand it has been a very upsetting experience finding mothers dead with lambs and we are still finding them now yes it is our way of life but i think people need to have a better understanding of what is involved in farming.


Dp- if you have worked on farms in the past, you would know why farmers don't bother wasting their time 'naming' each and every lamb, and they aren't tagged until they are much older, what a strange comment!! Comments about bringing all the sheep into shed's are written by people who really have no idea!! We brought in as many as we could, but some people have, for example, 600 sheep ....have you seen 600 sheep in a shed/sheds?? If they're lambing, they will pinch each others lambs, lie on them because of the lack of space e.t.c!! The snow stuck around for 3 weeks, the longer sheep are in, they catch diseases (despite best efforts to cleanse and disinfect the sheds) they became lame, catch mastitis e.t.c . The comments about farmers subjecting their sheep to horrible deaths is really hurtful, yes it is our livelihoods, but we wouldn't do it in the first place if we didn't care. We can't just call in sick, how ever bad we feel or whatever is going on in our lives, we still go out 365 days a year to look after our animals. You have no idea of the amount of snow we had up here , neither did the tourists who decided to come sightseeing-all 5 carloads of them (on separate occasions)-trying to drive through a snow drift and my husband had to go and dig them out...as if he didn't have enough to do!!! I could go on and on, but a lot of what I think has been written on here already by sensible like minded people. The fact is the closest a lot of people get to a lamb is by going into a supermarket and getting one for their Sunday roast. None of the people bad mouthing farmers did or wouldn't be prepared to do anything to help, so until you know ANYTHING about countrylife and farming, you have no room or knowledge to comment...it would be like me telling the doctor how to do his job!! Next winter or even lambing time, come and spend a week on a farm, and then perhaps any comments you make would be justified xxxx oh and you also have no idea of the costs involved either, even with the single farm payment!!! rant over,lol!!!