Some farmers in Wales can bury dead livestock on their own land after recent heavy snow, as strict EU rules are temporarily relaxed by the Welsh Assembly.
Persistent heavy snow across Wales has meant thousands of pregnant sheep and lambs have been buried under snow drifts.
Farmers have been digging dead sheep out of snowdrifts amid fears the costs of their disposals could force some farmers out of business.
Under rule changes, farmers can dispose of their livestock on their own farms, but only for a seven-day period, and only if they can prove their farms cannot be accessed by collectors of the dead animals.
Speaking in the Welsh Assembly, Alun Davies, minister for natural resources and food, said: “Under normal circumstances, livestock keepers contact a fallen stock collector for the safe removal of their fallen stock.
“Farmers should continue to do everything that they can to facilitate the removal of carcasses from their farm and should contact a fallen stock collector in the first instance.
“However, if fallen stock collectors are unable to access farms in the worst affected areas of Wales of Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham, Gwynedd, Flintshire, Montgomeryshire, and Radnorshire we will temporarily allow farmers to bury sheep, lambs and calves in accordance with EU and domestic regulations.
“Farmers will be required to provide evidence that collectors were unable to access the farm.”
David Jones, who farms near Bets-y-Coed, said the costs would have escalated if nothing had been done to chaneg the rules.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, he said: “Under EU rules, we have to pay £20 to have every dead animal taken away for disposal.
“We wanted these rules suspended to allow the animals to be buried on our own land.
“A farmer who has lost 200 sheep faces a £4,000 bill – that would break him in this financial climate – that’s even before the loss of income itself.”
Peter Roberts, director at the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), said: “As well as the cold weather, farmers across Wales are concerned about feed shortages.
“Ewes are having to use a great deal of energy feeding their lambs. But with such a poor winter, the grass has been very poor for the animals to feed on.
“This means there has been a huge demand for concentrate feed, and farmers have contacted us telling us they fear it could run out.”
Farmer Tudor Jones, of Glasinfryn, had been carrying hay up the mountain to a batch of sheep trapped in a snow-filled ravine.
“We’ve now managed to get them out by leading them through a neighbour’s land,” he said. “But for the rest we’ve drawn a line under them now – we have to focus on the living rather than the dead.”
As chairman of Aber and Llanfairfechan Graziers Society, he said sheep were traditionally turned out on the common on 1 April.
“I’ve never known it to not happen, except perhaps in 1982,” he said. “The worry is now that this cold weather is set to remain into next week at least.”