Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 24 March 2017

Battle continuing to feed and water stock

Frozen troughs and treacherous roads hamper farmers' efforts

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

HELP IN THE BIG FREEZE: The Irish Air Corps send a helicopter
from Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnell, Co Dublin, to airlift hay fodder((left) to John Connell, who lives with his herd of cattle on a tiny Island on Lough Ree, Co Westmeath.
HELP IN THE BIG FREEZE: The Irish Air Corps send a helicopter from Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnell, Co Dublin, to airlift hay fodder((left) to John Connell, who lives with his herd of cattle on a tiny Island on Lough Ree, Co Westmeath.

Farmers are still battling to maintain water and feed supplies to livestock this week despite an improvement in weather conditions.

With the country now in the fourth straight week of sub-zero temperatures, providing water for stock is proving extremely difficult.

While temperatures have increased, Met Eireann is predicting continued hard weather for the remainder of the week.

The thaw has started in many areas and up to 6°C is forecast for the southern half of the country today. But heavy frosts are expected again on Thursday and Friday, while some snow is likely in Connacht and Ulster.

Lough Ree on the Shannon has frozen over and the Air Corps was called in to deliver bales of hay to islands on the lake where cattle are being wintered.

Challenge

Keeping water flowing is the main challenge facing farmers. Water lines to drinking troughs in sheds and yards are frozen solid and many farmers have been unable to keep taps flowing. There are now fears pipes will burst as the thaw sets in.

Farmers right around the country have been forced to draw water from streams and rivers to ensure adequate supplies for housed livestock.


There have also been reports of farmers reopening watering points on streams in order to get water to stock.

In some cases farmers have been forced to move cattle out of sheds and allow them direct access to water courses.

Others are using pumps to fill drums and tankards in order to bring water to sheds or to cattle and sheep that are being out-wintered.

However, getting water and feed to livestock on out-farms is proving extremely difficult due to the treacherous condition of secondary roads.

There are no accurate figures on animal losses but sheep have been killed in snow drifts in mountainous areas of Kerry and Wicklow.

Liquid milk suppliers and farmers producing early lambs have been particularly badly hit by the cold snap.

Milking machines are proving almost impossible to keep right in the current conditions, with farmers reporting that lines are freezing as quickly as they are being freed.

James Murphy, who was recently elected chairman of the IFA sheep committee, is in the process of lambing up to 140 ewes at the moment.

However, the drystock farmer from Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, admitted that the weather had taken its toll, with the ewes not giving down as much milk as normal and lambs feeling cold.

"No one could have been prepared for this sort of weather. When did we ever see temperatures drop to -10°C or -14°C?" Mr Murphy said.

"If you leave a bucket of water down for 15 minutes it's frozen by the time you come back. It's the same with lambs' bottles. They're completely frozen solid if they're left out. Even bottles of penicillin are freezing."

Mr Murphy maintained that a lot of the damage had not been seen yet and will only come to light later.

He said he had heard cases of pumps in slurry tanks being damaged by the frost, while he said a lot of sprayers could be in trouble.

Irish Independent