Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 14 November 2018

'We have been on a knife edge with the water supply all week' - Kilkenny farmer milking 180-cow on coping with the drought

Gerry Nolan and his son James have been drawing two tankers of water a day from the River Nore to keep their cows hydrated during the heatwave. Photo: Roger Jones
Gerry Nolan and his son James have been drawing two tankers of water a day from the River Nore to keep their cows hydrated during the heatwave. Photo: Roger Jones

Ken Whelan

The water was cut off at Gerry Nolan's farm in Dunbell, Clara, Co Kilkenny last Thursday night, plunging his dairy enterprise into a state of crisis and forcing the 65-year- old farmer to drive his tanker two miles to Bennetsbridge to pump water from the Nore.

There was no notice of the cut off from Irish Water before the event which took place at 7pm in the evening, and when Irish Water was contacted by Gerry and his farming neighbours last Friday morning, its staff were unaware of the event.

"There are great talkers but they didn't even know who was disconnected from the water reservoir over in Thomastown," Gerry explained.

Gerry pays Irish Water €5,400 a year for a piped supply of H2O and a further €1,000 to the ESB to boost this supply around his holding.

To say he was under pressure when we spoke would be an understatement. "You could accept water being cut off if we had a heatwave lasting three months, but we are only in the third week of this weather. I am probably the worst affected in the area as I am a dairy farmer and I don't mean to be complaining but this is causing severe problems on the farm and to the animals," Gerry added.

Dilemma

Gerry, who farms in partnership with his only son James and with the help of his wife Brigid, runs a herd of mixed 180 Holstein and British Friesians and supplies Glanbia.

Gerry Nolan and his son James. Photo: Roger Jones
Gerry Nolan and his son James. Photo: Roger Jones

He has never been in such an operating dilemma in his entire farming career.

"Again, I don't want to be complaining, but this is all we need after enduring six months of rain and storms. I suppose we have to live with it were we to be cut off," he says.

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"Things were on a knife edge as regards the water all week. I had been told locally that the water would be turned off if the hot weather continued, but that was only word of mouth.

"We heard nothing officially from Irish Water," said Gerry.

The Nolan enterprise has no on-farm well - apart from the one which supplies the farmhouse.

End of line

The Nolans are at the end of the water line in the locality and will be the last to get water whenever the problem is solved.

And that could take another fortnight, according to information he received from his farming organisation - the ICMSA.

For now, Gerry's day involves drawing water from the Nore to ensure that the cows are supplied with the 120 litres per cow per day that they need.

The Nolans were offered a 400 gallons tanker by Irish Water over the weekend, but Gerry said it was a case of too little, too late.

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