SPRING might have sprung here in Tynedale, but despite a so-far successful lambing season for most, Brexit continues to cast a long dark shadow over sheep farming.

“I don’t think any of us can complain about the weather this year,” said semi-retired sheep and cattle farmer Malcolm Corbett of Dykehead Farm, Rochester.

“The weather has been remarkably dry and fairly warm, which we really needed after the battering we received from the Beast from the East last year, and there has been an abundance of grass. All of which has contributed to sheep being in a much better condition.

“After last year, it has brought a much welcome relief for sheep farmers, that’s for sure.”

Despite the recent rise in lamb prices during the Easter period, Malcolm, who lambed 550 of his Lleyn and Lleyn-Texels crosses from April 1 on his hill farm this year, said it was hard to predict what would happen this autumn. This season’s lambs will be going to slaughter just as Britain’s latest break-away date from the EU looms, on October 31.

“It might be the best winter I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Malcolm said. “However, it has also been the most uncertain time for sheep farmers I’ve lived through so far.”

“We might have struck a trade deal, but there is still a fear for farmers that we’ll put all our time and effort into rearing these lambs for the autumn, only to risk losing £30-£35 overnight if a trade deal isn’t struck, if we are forced to pay tariffs on all our exports.

“All we can do now is work efficiently, but if I’m honest I can’t see how the UK sheep industry can exist if we’re up against high tariffs.”