First Emergency Shipment of Straw Heads for Westray

The first emergency shipment of straw to livestock farmers on the island of Westray is being loaded and prepared for departure from Montrose.

NFUS, ScotGov, RSABI and Ringlink are working together to help remote farmers.

Loading straw for its journey to Westray

Loading straw for its journey to Westray

The shipment – the first of three – is the culmination of sterling work carried out by the Westray and Papa Westray branch of NFU Scotland, NFUS head office, Scottish Government, Scotland’s unique rural charity RSABI and Ringlink Machinery Ring which saw them organise supplies of straw and hire a cargo vessel to ship the straw direct to the island.

This summer has seen exceptionally wet weather, with some parts of the country experiencing the highest rainfall for more than a century. As a result some farmers and crofters have struggled to produce the necessary volumes of feed and bedding required for their stock this coming winter.

Normally straw destined for the island of Westray would be shipped to mainland Orkney before further ferry transport to the island. The local NFUS 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. While farmers will pay the market rate for the straw, the shipping has been part-funded by the organisers.

Loading the first shipment of straw on board the MV Burhou started today (Friday 30 October) and will be completed this afternoon with the ship due to leave Montrose Port later today. Weather permitting, the ship will make three trips in order for the required volume of straw to be delivered to the island.

Phil Bews, NFU Scotland’s Westray and Papa Westray Branch chairman commented:
“In the 20 years I have been involved with NFU Scotland it has always amazed me what can be achieved when everyone works together for one cause to deliver real benefits to the members on the ground.

“This much-needed shipment of straw for Westray has helped the island economy – without it farmers would have struggled to have maintain their breeding cow numbers and would have been forced to reduce their herds. We really appreciate all the work the different organisations involved have done to make this happen.”

NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said:
“A lot of work has been carried out to ensure this vital shipment of straw goes to Westray. The exceptional quantities required meant that traditional ferry options were not viable and I am very pleased that NFUS with the strong support of others has been able to charter a dedicated ship to ensure that the livestock farmers on Westray get the support they need to see them through the winter.

“The weather this year has impacted on farming across the whole of Scotland. The high concentration of cattle on the island of Westray, the volume of straw required and the difficulties involved in getting it there in sufficient time has meant we have had to take extraordinary measures to ensure that we protect the farms which are economically critical to the island.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“Orkney experienced its worst weather in over a century in the first half of this year, with the poor conditions hitting farmers on Westray particularly hard.

“In recognition of these exceptional circumstances being faced on Westray, I can confirm the Scottish Government is providing a significant contribution towards the cost of these direct shipments. I hope this shared endeavour will provide welcome relief to farmers on the island.

“Earlier this year RSABI received new funding from the Scottish Government to support farmers, and my officials are continuing to work closely with NFU Scotland and other industry partners on the wet weather working group to monitor the impact of the poor conditions on production and explore what else can be done to help.”

John Kinnaird, Chairman of rural charity RSABI said: “RSABI is delighted to be able to help the farmers on Westray - it is what we are here for. The weather on the Orkney Islands has been terrible this year, and many are struggling to make ends meet. Straw is an essential item and normally sourced locally. The huge costs to import straw to Westray may well have meant financial disaster for many. Thank you to NFU Scotland for putting this together.

“While RSABI has been delighted to assist Westray farmers and has a wider fund in place to assist shipping straw to Orkney, these are tough times for all who work and live in the Scottish countryside.

Graham Bruce of Ringlink Machinery Ring said:
“There are very few industries that are so entirely dependent upon the weather and the consequences of poor weather can have such a devastating impact as has been the case on the Northern Isles. It is therefore so important that collectively, our industry is willing and able to generate a genuine desire to work together. The logistics have been handled jointly between the suppliers, hauliers, shipping agent, NFUS and Ringlink, a testimony that cooperation does work.


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