IN WHAT seems to be becoming an annual problem, extremely dry weather conditions are once again taking their toll on farmers and landowners up and down the country.

Last summer's prolonged dry spell, followed by an uncharacteristically dry winter and spring, had resulted in local reservoirs and water supplies already sitting low, a problem that has been nothing but compounded by the very dry weather over the last month or so.

Although some areas have seen rain in the last week, this is barely touching the issue, and the detrimental effect lack of moisture is already having on grass and crops.

Willie Carruth, who farms at Lawmarnock, Kilbarchan explained that water's still short with them, but that the problem is easing slightly now that they have all the cows calved and out from the sheds. He said: "We're still short, but we have just about all the cows out now, which helps, but the ditches are getting dry, too.

"The farm supply is just about coping. Things we're certainly getting bad about two or three weeks ago when we still had the guts of 100 cattle inside. The grass is green and everything looks lovely and lush, but things are definitely dry. The water table was low after last summer's dry spell, followed by a relatively dry winter and spring. It's just never had a right chance to recover."

The problem is far from confined to one area of he country. Much further north, up in Morayshire, the area has also been feeling the heat, but a burst of properly heavy rain just this week has given the ground a much needed boost.

"We got rain on Tuesday (May 22), but that was the first 'real' rain we've had since about the middle of March," explained Ian Green, of Corskie, Fochabers.

"The only way we can describe it is that we were getting desperate. Winter barley and fields of grass were starting to burn up, so we were really starting to worry about the way things were going. Don't get me wrong, places within ten or 12 miles of us had had more rain in the last couple of months but our wee bit of the Morayshire coast just seemed to keep missing out.

"This week's inch of rain has saved the grass and spring barley. It was already at the stage that it's probably been too late for the winter barley, but it's still been a decent lift."

Andrew Jamieson, who runs a contracting business near Dundee, explained that, although early in the season, people are already calling for him to hold off on their usual schedule, as crops are maybe not as far on as they want them to be at this stage. He said: "For all it's still May, people are struggling. The dry spring we've had was brilliant for the folk that were lambing and calving, especially outside, but it's already had a real marked effect on the fields. The ground is that dry that, even when rain does come, it's not getting the chance to make a huge difference.

"Folk that had stock in sheds were also starting to struggle latterly. We'll just need to see how the next wee while goes but if we have another dry summer like last year, things are going to get tough. There will be folk out doing a rain dance before too long at all!"