Calls have been made for geese to be culled to help deal with growing numbers of the birds which have been helping themselves to crops.
Crofter and SIC councillor Allison Duncan says a controlled killing should be carried out to help finally deal with the problem. He has spotted up to 80 geese feeding off his crops as he has tended to his livestock in the mornings.
His comments follow a recent survey which showed the hungry birds caused almost £110,000 of damage on 22 affected farms last year. There are estimated to be 1,000 pairs, with a post-breeding population of 5,250.
The birds have been a problem in the crofting community for many months. Mr Duncan said the time has come for action.
“The geese, I see, are beginning to mate now, it’s certainly a problem in the South Mainland, there’s no doubt about that. When I’m coming out these past few mornings there have been 70 or 80 geese rising off my ground as I go out to look at the cattle calving. A cull of some kind would need to be done.”
Farmers and crofters are also facing up to the possibility of having to buy extra feed produce to help keep their kye and sheep in top condition because of continuing cold weather.
Although the isles have mostly escaped the ice and snow experienced in other parts of the country, the steady run of low temperatures has meant even the most fertile parts of Shetland have been left with very little grass. If the shortage continues livestock owners may have to source feed for longer than they would prefer.
Producers may also have to deal with the knock-on effects of an already high demand for feed from farmers in Scotland who have been in the thick heavy snowfalls.
The problem has been highlighted by the chairman of Shetland Livestock Marketing Group, Ronnie Eunson.
“The biggest problem here is the fact that it has been so cold and the fact that there is no grass about even in the most fertile parts. So for anybody either lambing at the moment or calving it’s difficult to turn out animals, because there’s nothing much to turn them out for,” he said.
“The concern would be how long this is going to carry on for – because you only start to see health problems if stuff [livestock] gets stressed because of a lack of forage.
“The price of feed has been rising steadily because of the shortages south so that, although we’ve had this lovely dry, bright spell, the cold has meant that the seasons are not really moving on very fast. What we’re looking for is some mild, slightly damp weather.
“They [crofters] would have been feeding now anyway because they are in the last six weeks before lambing. It’s what happens through May and into June that will tell. Folk have probably had to feed a bit extra up until now but it’s later on that will really hit.”
In contrast, Mr Duncan said conditions had been very favourable for livestock, although he admitted crofters did face having to buy extra feed.
“I’m 66 years of age now, and this is the best March and early part of April that I can ever remember. It’s been very cold and it’s been dry and there has been very little rain on the ground. You have to remember the whole of last year and the first two months of this year we had very, very poor weather.
“I can honestly say it’s the best I’ve seen the sheep look, both from a hill perspective and from an in-bye perspective for many a year. If the grass is not there you’ll just have to go and feed the sheep until the grass comes.”