The damp weather has heavily impacted farming in Dorset, causing unsown and waterlogged fields which have left poor outlooks for this year’s harvest.

The National Farmer’s Union said the wet weather and late spring has seen livestock and dairy producers unable to turn out stock for grazing due to a lack of grass growth.

Arable farmers have also experienced delays in spring cultivations and drilling of crops where the ground is too soggy to travel on.

Met Office figures showed temperatures were below average in March, which began with the bitterly cold weather, and also saw slightly more rain than normal across the UK.

There were lower amounts of sunshine than average, with dull conditions over most of England and Wales.

And the start of April has seen more of the same, with colder, greyer and wetter conditions than average in parts of the country.

There is now the prospect of warmer, drier weather next week, which could help turn things around, but the NFU said it was too early to tell if the forecast good weather would have an impact.

NFU deputy president Guy Smith said farmers were facing a "compressed season".

He added: "We started March with the various visits of the Beast from the East, which created havoc, then we got a very short window of reprieve, before very wet weather.

"For arable farmers who want to get on the land, they're delayed in putting seeds in the ground, or putting fertiliser on their crops to get things growing.

"It's in the financial interests of livestock farmers to get them out on to the grass, but it's too wet under-hoof, which adds costs."

Last year's wet harvest meant there is also a shortage of straw, further pushing up costs for livestock farmers.

Alex Stevens, regional policy manager for NFU South West, added: “The NFU is in close discussion with government about steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects of the bad weather on farm businesses.

“Additionally, the NFU has re-opened its Fodder Bank service allowing NFU members with surplus feed or bedding to match up with those who need to find some."