Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Saturday, 9 January 2010

RSPCA and NFU set up helpline for farmers hit by snow

Livestock at feeding time in central Scotland's Carron Valley
Livestock can left stranded without food by snow and ice

A helpline has been launched to help farmers whose animals are at risk in the Arctic conditions.

The hotline will be manned by RSPCA staff, who will pass on details to the charity's front-line workers on call to give farmers assistance.

Concern is growing that the weather might cut off animals' access to food, cause power cuts and hamper deliveries.

The NFU has welcomed the RSPCA's hotline, which can be reached by calling 0300 1238424.

More than 100 barn roofs - most in Scotland - have also collapsed.

Tim Wass, chief officer of the RSPCA inspectorate, said it had already been working with the National Farmers' Union (NFU) to help famers whose livestock was at risk.

"The extreme cold and bad weather conditions could have a massive impact on farm animals," he said.

While farmers are used to coping with extreme weather - [it] has left some facing difficult situations
Alistair Mackintosh, NFU

"We are committed to doing everything we can to assist them, and hope this hotline will be a real help for farmers who find themselves in difficulties."

A man was taken to hospital on Thursday after the roof of a cattle shed collapsed under the weight of snow at a farm in Aberdeenshire, killing several cows.

Dairy farms have also reported tankers having difficulties reaching them, with some farmers pouring away milk because of a lack of storage space.

NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh said: "While farmers are very resilient and are used to coping with extreme weather conditions the current bad weather has left some facing difficult situations.

"The welfare of their livestock is of paramount importance to farmers and, while they are working hard to carry on as normal, anything that gives them an additional helping hand in these extreme conditions is welcome."

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