Extreme weather expert involved in review of Greenfield farm after animal deaths during Storm

Storm Emma caused significant disruption last spring
Storm Emma caused significant disruption last spring
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A Canadian expert, who has experience of extreme weather conditions on farms, has been hired to review the operations at the Greenfield farm in Kilkenny after a number of animals died during Storm Emma.

The Greenfield farm is a partnership between Teagasc and a number of farming entities including Glanbia, Irish Farmers Journal Trust and a private farm family.

The aim of the to demonstrate that a new entrant to dairying could establish a farm that would be sustainable in economic terms at a relatively low cost.

However, earlier this year, during Storm Emma, concerns were raised after a number of animals died on the farm.

Addressing the Public Accounts Committee this week Teagasc Director Gerry Boyle said two cows and six calves were lost at a Kilkenny facility when the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma hit Ireland.

On the Greenfield farm animals are kept in roofless cubicles on a special concrete pad.

At the time it was reported that at one point, snow drifts of a metre covered the roofless cubicles in Kilkenny as staff worked around the clock in an effort to protect the exposed animals from the elements.

Prof Boyle said the partners on the project have commissioned a review chaired by a former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.

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"We are awaiting finalisation of the review. But certainly, we think there will be lessons learned in terms of the model and managing an extreme event like that, Prof. Boyle said.

While he said the report is as yet only at draft phase. He said the episodes that occurred, occurred due to the storm itself.

"It was an extraordinary event in terms of the build-up of snow drifts over a very short period of time.

"Even though the farm had taken preventive measures that were not clearly sufficient," he said.

However, Prof. Boyle highlighted that in terms of the overall health status of the farm the episodes while regrettable and were not significant.

However, he said while there is housing on the farm for pregnant cows and calves he said that housing is at the "heart of the review".

He added that the partners brought in an expert from Canada who is familiar with extreme weather on dairy farms to aid with the review process.

In terms of its aims, Prof Boyle said the Greenfield farm has been immensely successful.

Up to this year, he said the farm has been building up significant reserves and added that it has proved very useful as a demonstration farm for other farmers as it is a full cost model including land and labour costs.

"There is no other entity out there that has that financial data," he said.

But this year like a lot of farms, he said it was affected by the drought to a significant degree with substantial extra costs incurred.

"We are obviously very conscious of the importance of communicating full information on the operation of the farm the successes and the failures," Prof Boyle said.

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