Farm Ireland

Saturday 26 May 2018

'I will have to take the loss on the chin' - Farmer finds 21 of his weanlings dead after snowstorm

A farmer makes her way through heavy snow. REUTERS
A farmer makes her way through heavy snow. REUTERS
A tractor attempts to clear drifting snow in the hills above the Glens of Antrim (PA)

Deborah Coleman

Storm Emma proved particularly devastating for one west Wicklow farmer, who lost more than 20 animals in the blizzards and snow drifts.

While many people were at home sheltering from the storm, Patrick Nolan told the Wicklow People that he found himself digging through the snow to try and rescue the buried weanlings, only to discover that 21 - over half his herd - were dead, despite being in a shed.

"I had fed them on the Thursday morning and, when the snow came on Friday, I couldn't get up to the farm. I live in Knocknadruce and the farm is in Donard. I set off at 4.30am on the Saturday morning on foot to try and get to them,' said Mr Nolan, who encountered snow drifts of up to ten feet high on the way.

Following a gruelling eight-mile hike in the thick snow, Patrick arrived at the farm and found 21 of his weanlings dead in the snow which had been blown into the shed where the weanlings were housed.

"I managed to save 17 of them and they were in a bad way until the following Tuesday, but I think they will survive," he said.

While Patrick said that matters could have been worse, he is still facing a loss of approximately €750 per animal as they had reached about 360kg in weigh.

"It's unfortunate and I didn't want to have to send so many off to the knacker's yard but things could always be worse. I am lucky that I wasn't buried in snow myself, as it was so bad and there are also many other farmers who have faced losses due to this weather," he said.

Unfortunately, the loss is compounded by the fact that Mr Nolan is a Green Cert farmer and, until his course is completed, he is not entitled to any grants or subsidies.

At the age of 28, he has been running his own farm for the past four years.

"That's true, there are no subsidies until the Green Cert is done. Also, insurance companies won't sell cover for snow damage, just public liability insurance, so I will have to take the loss on the chin," he said.

Meanwhile, the IFA Hill Farmers' Committee is calling on the Government to provide compensation to farmers who have incurred such losses. Chairperson Denis Halpin said that the snow has resulted in extreme difficulties for many farming families, and that support is needed.

Mr Nolan's view on this is: "It might never happen, but we have to try to get something."

This article was updated on March 16 to make it clear that the farmer had his cattle housed in a shed during Storm Emma.

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