It’s absolutely the final straw from Montrose to Westray...

Some of the straw prior to being loaded.
Some of the straw prior to being loaded.

Orkney farmers on the island of Westray are to be the recipients of a consignment of straw that has been sent from the Ringlink in Angus thanks to Scotland’s unique rural charity, RSABI.

The Charity has recently established a fund to assist farmers with the haulage of straw to Orkney from Montrose Harbour on Friday, October 30 at 2pm

Due to the exceptionally wet weather this summer, when some parts of the country received their highest rainfall for more than a century, farmers and crofters have struggled to produce the necessary volumes of feed and bedding required for their stock this coming winter.

Straw destined for the island of Westray would traditionally have been shipped to mainland Orkney before further ferry transport to the island. In recognition of the specific needs of Westray livestock farmers, a group of stakeholders, NFU Scotland, Scottish Government, RSABI and Ringlink have organised supplies of straw and the hiring of a cargo vessel to ship straw direct to the island.

The local NFU branch on the island has identified the volume of straw required by each of the island’s farmers. The straw has been sourced through the machinery ring Ringlink and while farmers will pay the market rate for the straw, the shipping has been part funded by the organisers.

The first shipment of straw direct to Westray left Montrose Port last Friday, October 30, on board the MV Burhou. Weather permitting, the ship will make three trips in order for the required volume of straw to be delivered to the island.

Westray farmer Philip Bews , who is also chairman of the Westray NFUS, runs one of the larger farms on Westray, an island off Orkney.

He said: “We try to be self sufficient as an island community but this year has been exceptionally wet. We have had twice the normal rainfall for most of the summer months and the late Spring meant our spring barley was very late in. There have been very diminished yields on the islands due to the poor growing season, in fact we harvested half the barley of last year.”

‘‘Some farmers have had their cattle inside all summer which has depleted the already scarce fodder. Other farmers have been lucky to put cattle on dry links for a few months but they still need feeding at night because it’s been too cold for the grass to grow.”

A big round bale of barley straw that, when haulage is added, would normally cost in the region of £26 costs approximately £8 in the North-east.

Philip added: “The wheat and barley straw being delivered to us this week is a real lifeline and will mostly be fed to the cattle although some will be used for bedding.”

Laurencekirk machinery ring Ringlink spokesman Graham Bruce said: “ I’ve seen pictures of fields on Westray after the silage had been cut that looked like ploughed fields. They were far too wet and completely unsuitable for grazing cattle or sheep, a lot of farmers have kept their stock inside this year because of the bad conditions.

“The rural charity the RSABI (Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution) was established as long ago as 1897 to help with instances such as this. The straw will be sent in three shipments, the first two will be barley straw for feeding and the third mostly wheat straw sourced from D M Carnegie of Brechin and Farnell.”