LAMBS dying and crops being ruined has been the disastrous result of one of the wettest springs many farmers can remember for decades.

Relentless rain throughout March and early April has left swathes of farmland saturated and the unseasonably cold weather is causing many farmers to keep their ewes, lambs and dairy cows inside for longer than usual.

This has had a knock-on effect for farmers’ finances with extra food having to be brought in for the animals and arable farmers are being affected by waterlogged ground hindering their crop planting and destroying those already sown.

There have also been reports of scores of lambs dying across the Dales and the North York Moors as they struggle to survive in the cold and wet, with one Helmsley farmer saying he has lost 40 lambs already this season.

Askrigg Farmer Allen Kirkbride, director of Hawes Mart, said this spring is the worst he has seen in 20-years.

He said: “Lambs can survive reasonably well in the cold and dry, or in the warm and wet, but when you have both cold and wet they start to struggle.

“Once they get a couple of days old it is normally out they go, but this time with it being so wet and so cold you have to hold them in for longer and wait until they are a certain age to go and face the elements.

“They need shelter, and fields with dry stone walls can help but it is a struggle at the moment.

“With it being a late-ish spring there has been no grass to help the ewes with the lambs so additional food has to be put out for them.

“This seems to be happening for longer this year.

“The true hill breeds like the Swaledales are only just starting lambing now so we will see what the effect is on them, but for others it has really been as hard as it has been for many years.”

The region’s NFU spokesperson, Rachael Gilbanks, said the cold, wet spring is posing a challenge for all types of farming and this week the NFU launched a free fodder bank to help farmers who are having to feed their animals for longer than anticipated.

She said: “Obviously weather is part and parcel of farming and farmers are pretty resilient and will do everything they can to try and improve things.

“But at the moment it (the weather) is causing a lot of problems for them.”

Sarah Kent from the Met Office confirmed that March has seen well above average rainfall across Yorkshire.

The region's long-term average rainfall for March between 1981 to 2010 is 69.9mm but parts of Yorkshire such as Pateley Bridge saw more than twice that amount, with 143.6mm recorded last month.

Precipitation stations in Fylingdales in the North York Moors recorded a March average of 135.2mm, while Bainbridge saw some 105.2mm of rain.

However, there is some good news on the horizon as Ms Kent said that the weather will start to get warmer and drier from Friday afternoon and into the weekend as the easterly wind shifts to a southerly.