There has even been panic-buying at some supermarkets, leaving shelves empty as consumers feared the worst.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has issued guidance for its members covering the consequences of severe weather, such as missed or failed milk collections and blocked roads, as well as advice on gritting roads and working in low temperatures.
The NFU said it had been in touch with a number of milk buyers to assess the situation. It highlighted Cumbria as the worst-affected region, but said that producers had been “very good” at keeping roads open.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “Most businesses suffer during a cold snap and farming is no different. As many affected farmers will be trying to reach remote parts of their farms, I am urging everyone to remain as safe as possible and take the necessary precautions.
“However, in many cases, it is inevitable that business as usual will be disrupted.”
Scotland has been particularly hard hit by the bad weather.
“Many of our members are struggling because of the snow and stormy conditions, with road closures and access issues causing problems for dairy and livestock farmers,” said NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick.
“The immediate impact of this is that many dairy farmers are not getting their milk collected and are being forced to dispose of it in their slurry after a day’s milking. We are hopeful that collections for these farms will return to normal at the weekend but, with the weather being so unpredictable, it is hard to say.”
Arla Foods, which is owned by 2,500 British farmers, has agreed to cover the cost of milk disposed of if it is unable to collect due to the freezing conditions.
Graham Wilkinson, senior director of member relations, Arla Foods UK said: “The weather is proving extremely difficult for Arla farmers who are battling the elements as well as freezing pipes in the milking parlour. Despite heroic efforts by Arla farmers and drivers, in some cases it is proving impossible to collect milk because of the road network. Where this is or has been the case these past few days, Arla has made the decision to cover the cost of milk it could not collect. The lengths farmers go to so that we can continue to enjoy dairy products needs to be recognised and as a farmer owned dairy cooperative if we can take the worry off farmers by guaranteeing they will get paid, it is the right thing to do in these extreme circumstances.”
The Food Storage & Distribution Federation has also issued guidance for its employers, offering advice on the common issues faced due to adverse weather conditions, such as how to deal with staff who are unable to get into the office and what their rights are.
Manufacturers and producers have also been struggling with the extreme weather conditions (see below).