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Tuesday 22 May 2018

'It's two generations of work gone': Farmer on losing 10-20pc of his stock in snowstorm

"It's a small mercy my father isn't alive to see this"

Karl Winters on his farm in Taghmon, Co Wexford where Storm Emma left a trail of destruction. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Karl Winters on his farm in Taghmon, Co Wexford where Storm Emma left a trail of destruction. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Claire Fox

A dairy and beef farmer in Co Wexford has lost between 10-20pc of his stock due to the collapse of six sheds on his farm as a result of heavy snowfall.

Karl Winters from Taghmon, Co Wexford said that last Friday a shed housing 140 cows collapsed as a result of heavy snow and this was followed on Saturday by the collapse of a shed housing 100 cattle.

Four other sheds were also destroyed. In total, Karl estimates that he has lost 10-20pc of his animals as a result of the destruction and said that the damage will cost "hundreds of thousands" to repair.

"On Friday, we lost the cowshed and we were going to move them to the big cattle shed but we're lucky we didn't because then that was flattened, so at least we saved some cows.

"I reckon six or seven cows are known to be dead but others are injured. Twelve calves died and the cattle got away a bit more lightly - there are about 10 of them hurt," he said."I wouldn't like to put a figure on it but between the loss of stock and buildings, it'll cost hundreds of thousands.

"I pay a lot of insurance each year so they better pay out."

The damage at Winterheights, Taghmon, after sheds collapsed
The damage at Winterheights, Taghmon, after sheds collapsed

"It's two generations of work gone. It has put us back into the mid 50s. All of our stock will have to be shipped off the farm except for the milking cows because the milking parlour is the only thinking that's left standing.'

The married father of three said the whole situation is very stressful.

"It's placed a huge stress on us. The animal welfare is your welfare really as a farmer. If our own house was gone it couldn't be any worse. Any farmer would feel for their stock.

"It's a small mercy my father isn't alive to see this. He put his whole life into this farm. We're back at square one."

Machinery clearing a path through drifts in North Wexford
Machinery clearing a path through drifts in North Wexford

Karl, who has been farming for 15 years, said that this was "the worst destruction seen in generations and that there were snow drifts up to three metres on the farm over the weekend". He added that although his milking parlour was right beside the sheds, it managed to "escape damage" and that he is grateful to the generosity of neighbours who are currently housing his stock.

"The county council are helping clear the roads at the moment and we're getting the stock down to the yards of a few neighbours who are retired and have some space. It's all about saving stock at the moment," he explained.

The damaged tunnel at Helix Hibernia Snail Farm in Ballinaclash.
The damaged tunnel at Helix Hibernia Snail Farm in Ballinaclash.

"I don't have to think right now, but in a few days when all the activity has stopped, that's when the real work will kick in. It's not easy and it's really hard to face right now."

Karl's situation was reflected in a large number of sheds that suffered damage on many farms in Wexford and hard-hit areas.

Tillage farmer and bedding and haylage contractor in the nearby Foulksmills, Willie John Kehoe said that three sheds on their farm collapsed as result of the snowy conditions

"A tractor and sprayer were damaged when the sheds fell. There was already a demand for feed but this weather will drive it on more I'd say," said Willie John.


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