Adapting to Snowfall & Extreme Cold Weather

Climate projections indicate that much of Scotland will see a reduction in the occurrence of frost and snowfall over the next century.

Climate projections indicate that much of Scotland will see a reduction in the occurrence of frost and snowfall over the next century, however, smaller decreases will be seen in mountainous regions, particularly in the north and west.

Cold weather and snowfall events will continue to be issues that farmers will need to deal with from time to time. Sub-zero temperatures and snowfall conditions can cause damage to infrastructure, crops and livestock. Frost can cause low crop yields by restricting stem growth. At emergence, crops can be vulnerable to hard frost and growth may be restricted. Livestock can suffer from cold stress which can result in injury to limbs and require increased energy to sustain their growth. Additionally, by not preparing for snowfall, there is a chance of reduced access to the farm business and damage to pipes and infrastructure. Extreme cold spells over recent years, such as ‘The Beast from the East,’ wreaked havoc on farms across the country, causing, premature deaths of smaller livestock such as lambs and preventing collection and delivery of milk and other goods.

Download the adaptation checklist to see what additional actions you may want to consider to improve your farms resilience to snowfall and extreme cold weather.



Farm Access

Roads or paths may be blocked and access made more difficult if snow or ice prevents staff, vehicles or machinery from working or moving around the farm. Product uplift deliveries may be reduced, which will impact supply to customers and the profits of the business.

Livestock Welfare

Livestock movement around the farm can be impacted by snowfall and icy conditions or flooding due to snowmelt. Livestock may need to be housed for longer during prolonged cold periods. Access to water can be an issue when temperatures are below freezing causing water troughs to freeze.


Sub-zero temperatures can cause pipes to freeze and burst causing damage and disrupting supply. The weight of snow on building roofs can cause roofs to collapse or water ingress. Freeze-thaw throughout the day may cause building damage where the structure is weaker.

Crop Frost Damage

Frozen grass and crops can be damaged by repeated freeze-thaw as the water in crops cells expands when freezing. Unexpected low temperatures may cause damage to young crops or crops varieties that are not as winter hardy.

Soil Damage

Wet and cold conditions due to compaction and water not infiltrating the soil resulting in surface water freezing. Spreading of organic materials must not be done on snow covered ground to protect water quality and the soil from damage.

Sub-zero Temperatures

Below freezing conditions affect all aspects of the farm including the health and productivity of livestock and crops. There is also the welfare of staff across the farm as working in freezing conditions can cause sickness, stress and mental health issues.

What can you do now to help future proof the business?

Many of the impacts discussed above are not new, however, climate change is exacerbating the impact on the agricultural community. Implementing measures to adapt against changing rain patterns now can help reduce risks and aid the longevity of your farming business and the productivity of your land.

Alongside monitoring weather forecasts, SEPA’s live flooding information page will help you to plan ahead and mitigate any negative effects of flooding. Signing up to SEPA’s ‘Floodline’ service will ensure you receive messages when flooding is forecast in your area. Flood maps can be viewed online so that plans can be made to adapt to areas, which have an increased risk of flooding.

Further information:

Download Climate Change Adaptation for Agriculture: Is your farm ready?

This document provides a climate change adaptation checklist for your business so that various climate change adaptation measures can be considered. This will help you determine the most suitable and effective methods for improving resilience to climate change on your farm. Additionally, the topics examined throughout this document will provide suggestions and ideas that can aid in the development of an Emergency Action Plan for your business.

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