Creed may not control the weather, but he should pay better attention to it

Minister must know farmers had predicted the fodder crisis in November and backed it up with cold, hard facts

The first shipment of fodder arriving in Buttevant County Cork for farmers.
Pic:Mark Condren.
The first shipment of fodder arriving in Buttevant County Cork for farmers. Pic:Mark Condren.

Wayne O’Connor

Michael Creed may not control the weather, but he might be best advised to pay better attention to it.

While farmers are said to have an obsession with the climate and the variables in our atmosphere, few are as qualified to comment on it Desmond McHugh.

Desmond is a farmer in Co Leitrim. He doubles up managing the family farm with operating a Met Éireann climatology station.

There are 400 similar stations dotted across the country used to monitor temperatures and rainfall.

It is tough work and those manning the stations must be disciplined and vigilant to make sure they record accurate readings daily.

Each person manning a station records the figures and then sends the data to Met Éireann headquarters every month to be analysed.

However, the process means these people can spot trends and go through their own records to observe weather patterns and make judgments on how our weather has been.

They also feed in to State bodies and organisations that play a role in people’s everyday lives.

Met Éireann use Desmond’s figures to improve its weather forecasting services.

Data from the 400 stations is also shared with An Garda Síochána, Irish Water and local authorities, who may use the data to carry out essential public services.

Desmond uses them to observe farming conditions. Minister Creed might be best advised to have a look at them.

Last November, Desmond expressed concern at a looming fodder crisis because of a lack of consecutive dry days in the previous four months.

“The ground is soaked,” he said. He could back it up.

Desmond recorded an average of 23 dry days for the same period over the past nine years.

Between July and October last year, he recorded 528.8mm of rain falling at his Co Leitrim station. This represented a significant 54pc increase on 2016. The highest amount of rain during those four months came on August 22, the same day as the devastating floods that hit Co Donegal.

He warned this rain prevented some farmers getting a second cut during the summer to provide for cattle in winter.

“It has a knock-on effect because it takes the land a longer time to recover after a huge amount of rain. We don’t know what the future holds, so if it continues to stay wet, there will be an accumulative impact.

“This will have an impact financially because it means they will have to go out and invest in feeding cattle.”

It stayed wet but Mr Creed must not have been listening.

Less than two weeks after Desmond’s warning, a gaggle of Fianna Fáil TDs sat opposite Mr Creed in Leinster House warning him of the looming fodder crisis.

“We are extremely concerned as to what is unveiling itself across the country, particularly along the west coast, with regard to an emerging fodder shortage,” warned agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue.

“You will be aware of the unprecedented weather we have experienced.”

He warned livestock had been housed early, silage and fodder was not saved and available supplies were depleting quickly.

He was urged to take urgent action.

The minister insisted: “There are available supplies of fodder across the country as a whole for those farmers who may require it to supplement their supply.”

Yet now we are importing feed to prevent cattle from starving. If Mr Creed had paid more heed, perhaps he would have heard what the farmers were telling him all along.

Online Editors