Arctic blast wreaks havoc across sector
Milk collections hit, marts closed and sheds on edge of collapse
PERILOUS conditions around the country have left milk collections on a knife edge, marts closed and sheds in danger of collapse.
Record lows of -16°C have all but paralysed transport on many of the country’s secondary roads despite efforts by local authorities and rural communities to keep routes open. U-turns by county councils such as Cork allowed farmers to get loads of grit into the worst affected areas over the weekend.
The lack of wind has prevented drifting and a resulting toll on outdoor sheep flocks. But with up to 18in of snow lying on shed roofs in south Leinster, there are now fears of sheds collapsing, as has been witnessed in parts of Britain over the past week.
Milk collections from individual farms in Wexford have been taking up to two hours each, forcing milk lorry drivers to work through the night. Despite the efforts of co-op staff and farmers who have been routinely providing chains, tractors and loaders to dig out milk lorries, some milk producers have been left waiting for up to five days to get their milk collected.
However, co-ops say that no milk has been lost so far and that they have now cleared any backlogs. Met Éireann is predicting a thaw this weekend but warns of local snow showers over the coming days and that temperatures will remain below normal for mid-December. Co-ops say they will be able to cope provided no more heavy snow falls on the already treacherous roads. Pressure on milk collections has also been eased by the unprecedented number of spring calving herds being dried off in the past week.
Glanbia estimates that milk supplies have dropped by a massive 30pc in the past week, and is expecting another 30pc drop in volumes over the coming days. This will see the number of suppliers requiring milk collection to fall by approximately 1,000 in the space of just two weeks.
This follows an appeal from liquid milk producers for creamery suppliers to free up the milk collection network to cope with liquid milk supplies.
“We are calling on all farmers to pull together to help us get through this difficult period,” said Eamon McEntaggert, of the Fresh Milk Producers’ Group. “Liquid milk producers are hitting peak production and getting the milk out on a daily basis is vital for the sensitive liquid milk quality criteria.