Rural and Environment

Winter is coming

November 9, 2018 by No Comments | Category Agriculture, Environment, Farming

By Ian Davidson, Head of Agriculture Policy Division 


Farming can be a rewarding profession – but there can be no doubt it poses a unique set of challenges.

Over the past year, a wet winter followed by a cold spring and then the long, dry summer has meant farmers have faced many challenges including poor sowing and harvesting conditions, lower yields, difficult lambing conditions and heavy livestock losses. Farmers and crofters have been facing the potential for shortfall in feed and straw to see them through this coming winter.

Such circumstances underline just how important it is for farmers and crofters to be prepared for winter now to ensure they are as equipped as they can be for all the season can throw at them.

In response to the extreme weather of recent years, the Scottish Government formed the Agricultural Weather Advisory Panel early in 2018.

The panel, made up of representatives from bodies such as the NFUS, SRUC, the clearing banks, the Agricultural Industries Confederation, the Met Office, SEPA, RSABI and the Scottish Government, last met in early October to discuss how best farmers and crofters can be prepared for winter.

In addition, the Scottish Government will co-ordinate its annual Resilience Week campaign to promote the benefits of fostering resilience in individuals, families, communities and businesses from 5-9 November.

While the early long range forecasts for this winter may not indicate we are set to face the extremes of recent years, experience teaches us it is always better to be prepared.

There are a number of things the Weather Panel have agreed that farmers and crofters should be mindful of as we count down towards winter.


Modern farming requires machinery – and machinery needs fuel. We would urge farmers and crofters to start looking at their fuel and heating oil requirements to ensure they have enough and to begin stocking up on extra now.

Maintaining stocks

A plan for maintaining stocks of feed and fodder during periods of severe weather and transport disruption is essential. It may also be worth considering the merits of entering into longer term animal feed and fodder supply contracts, and potentially looking at early dispersal of feed stocks in strategic locations, possibly in conjunction with neighbouring farmers.

Financial planning

Anyone concerned about the impact winter may have on their financial situation should speak to their bank as soon as possible. They can 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.

Joint planning

Farmers and crofters should always remember they’re not in this alone. Neighbouring farms will be facing the same issues and joint planning to ensure critical business activities can be sustained could be the answer.

If there are worries or concerns, don’t hesitate to speak early to friends or relatives. Sources of advice and support are out there, such as the Farm Advisory Service, or RSABI. The FAS can be reached at 0300 323 0161 or via email at, while 0300 111 4166 will take you to the RSABI.

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