Cow death probe at farm part-run by State agency

Labour TD Willie Penrose said lessons could be learned
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Teagasc has been told lessons could be learned after a number of cows died on a farm it part-runs during Storm Emma.

An investigation has been launched to determine how the six calves and two cows died at the Co Kilkenny farm.

Labour's agriculture spokesperson Willie Penrose said lessons could be learned from the Teagasc Greenfield programme after cows were exposed to the elements last week with no shelter or cover on site.

Key stakeholders running the farm said a review of the impact of Storm Emma is on-going.

Animals there are living in roofless cubicles on a special concrete pad. This left cows and calves exposed last week despite the best efforts of staff and stakeholders on site. Suggestions that the farming practice is cruel have been dismissed.

The 'open greenfield' farm is managed with the technical support and under the supervision of Teagasc, the State's agricultural research and advisory body. The landowners, Glanbia and the 'Irish Farmers Journal' are also involved in the project on leased farmland. It aims to adopt key technologies, reducing labour requirements and maximising environmental and animal welfare best practice.

Last night Teagasc said the farm had an excellent animal welfare record since it was established in 2009. Cows were milked once per day last week and staff went to enormous efforts to protect the cows and battle snowdrifts.

"The performance of the Greenfield farm to date has always been critically analysed and a detailed analysis of the impact of Storm Emma and the associated snowstorm will be carried out. This will inform how best to prepare and react to such an event should it ever occur again.

"Enormous efforts were made on Friday, with additional help brought onto the farm to support the farm manager and farm staff, to get cows milked and care for the welfare of the cows and calves. The staff ensured that all cows were milked each day and that all animals were provided with adequate feed and water which is the main animal welfare priority in such situations."

Mr Penrose said contingency measures should be put in place for extreme weather events.

"I would trust Teagasc to always do the right thing and I am sure they will evaluate the situation there.

"It would probably be logical to have a fall-back position where you could bring the animals in when the weather conditions become hazardous and extreme. A lesson could be learned from this situation."

Glanbia, one of the partners involved in the project but not involved in the daily running of the farm, said it will also review events at the farm in conjunction with the project partners.

The facility is run as a demonstrator farm and has a three-way private ownership structure, with operational management advice from Teagasc. Teagasc doesn't own the facility.

Irish Independent