In pictures: 2018 farming year in review as the weather caused havoc

The Kavanagh family from Drumphea Co Carlow, move sheep from fields into shelter ahead of the arrival of storm Emma. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
The Kavanagh family from Drumphea Co Carlow, move sheep from fields into shelter ahead of the arrival of storm Emma. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

This year, like no other in recent memory, will be remembered for the extreme weather conditions and havoc it caused.

January

The fodder crisis snuck into every corner of the country this year. The north west of the country was particularly badly affected with the issue of poor spring weather compounded by the extremely wet autumn in 2017 which found livestock housed in many parts for over eight months.

A study by State agency Teagasc found 90pc of farmers in the north-west are facing serious fodder shortages this winter. Farmers generally had 35pc less feed than they needed for their herds.

February

Negotiators for the European Union and Latin American bloc Mercosur concluded two weeks of talks in Brussels on February 9, on a free trade deal with no clear breakthrough and no formal offers made.

Farmers in Laois clearing roads that were impassable with snow.
Farmers in Laois clearing roads that were impassable with snow.

The EU signalled the week prior to discussions that it could open up its market to more beef from Mercosur countries Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, raising its potential offer for beef access to 99,000t per year from a previous 70,000t.

Storm Emma, which started on February 27, saw farmers around the country battling the elements this spring and saw highest temperatures of -1 to 2 degrees.

Many farmers were left without power and water supply to many sheds were limited after a deluge of snow and freezing temperatures in some areas while others struggled to cope with having so much stock indoors, as lambing and calving continued.

It is estimated that up to 57cm of snow fell in places around the country according to Met Eireann from February 27, until March 6 when Storm Emma finally dissipated.

March

Dairy farmers saw poor milk prices in March, with Glanbia cutting its base price by 3c/L citing market oversupply.

Avian influenza subtype H5N6 was confirmed in a wild bird, a common buzzard, in County Tipperary in March. This was the second positive wild bird finding in Ireland this year.

April

The cold and wet weather continued in many parts of the country until late April and left many farmers struggling to supply sufficient fodder with poor grass growth.

A Wexford farmer’s emotional online appeal for fodder for his cattle sparked huge reaction from farmers and the general public alike.

He asked people to share the video “for the sake of the farming community and myself to create awareness of the hardship we are going through at the moment”.

May

The European Commissions proposal to cut funding of the Common Agricultural Policy by 5pc (€17bn) was met with condemnation by farm organisations on May 2.

Under the new proposals, EU expenditure on the policy would fall from the current 39pc of the total EU budget to 30pc.

The Commission said in May the reformed policy will place a greater emphasis on the environment and climate and will support the transition towards a more sustainable agricultural sector and the development of vibrant rural areas.

June

After the incredibly long winter, farmers had more drudgery to follow as the summer saw record breaking temperatures and weeks without rain.

A record-breaking 32°C was recorded at Shannon Airport, Co Clare on June 28, the highest temperature ever recorded at a synoptic station in Ireland, according to a Met Éireann report.

Figures from Cork Airport show that it was the driest summer on record, with just 109.5mm total summer rainfall.

There were heat wave conditions recorded at 15 stations at various times between June 24 and July 4. There were absolute drought conditions recorded at 21 stations at various times between May 22 and July 14.

July

The cost of the drought was being felt by farmers across the country, with many running up bills in the thousands as they are forced to buy in feed. Crisp supplies come under threat as the potato crop is severely affected.

Kerrygold butter in the US was hit with a lawsuit over its 'grass fed' claims, while the farm insurance market hots up with Axa offering a range of farm products.

August

Monsanto was ordered to pay $289m to a man who claimed the weed killer contributed to his terminal cancer.

A San Francisco jury awarded $289 million (€253 million) to a former school groundsman who claimed Monsanto's popular Roundup weed killer contributed to his terminal cancer.

September

Without a doubt 2018 will go down in history as one of the toughest years for the farming community in Ireland, but who could have thought it would almost bring the largest show in Europe to its knees?

The Ploughing Championships had to be cancelled for one day due to Storm Ali. Picture: Gerry Mooney
The Ploughing Championships had to be cancelled for one day due to Storm Ali. Picture: Gerry Mooney

When Storm Ali hit the Ploughing Championships in the early hours of the second day of the show, it was in many ways a reflection of the past 12 months in farming. The Ploughing was cancelled on the Wednesday and opened for the fourth day on the Friday for the first time since it began.

October

The launch of Glanbia’s brand in the lucrative US market provoked an angry reaction from Ornua, who accused the Irish dairy giant of targeting Kerrygold.

The row broke out between the two dairy giants after Glanbia launched their ‘Truly Grass Fed’ brand, which Ornua said targeted the “iconic” Kerrygold brand in the US market.

November

The Beef Plan Movement organised a series of meetings to drive membership and detail its plans for the beef industry in November, with an ambition to reach 40,000 members, according to group spokesperson Eamon Corley.

"A big part of our plan is to unite farmers and take back control of our beef industry. We see it as a mathematical equation where at the moment we have 80,000 divided farmers selling cattle individually to a very united small group of factories."

December

As the year draws to a close, the possibility of a no-deal Brexit looms on the horizon. The agri sector is the most exposed of the Irish economy with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit possibly shutting down the UK market to Irish goods, or the imposition of steep WTO tariffs on them.

Online Editors