Shocking images of farms left in ruins after Storm Emma

Karol Winters surveys the damage at Winterheights, Taghmon, after sheds collapsed
Karol Winters surveys the damage at Winterheights, Taghmon, after sheds collapsed

Esther Hayden

Some Wexford farmers suffered catastrophic losses during Storm Emma losing sheds, livestock and machinery.

Willie John Kehoe of Kehoe Farming in Foulksmills saw a tractor and sprayer damaged when a shed collapsed on his farm under the weight of the snow.

The New Ross Standard reports this week that in total he lost three sheds but said that his losses were small in comparison to some of his counterparts.

'We had three sheds collapse, one is completely gone while we lost two bays in other sheds. But we're not as bad as other farmers. We didn't lose any stock. There was a tractor and a sprayer in one of the sheds which came down and they are very badly damaged.

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

'In fairness to our men they all turned up on Sunday to help out and we got the tractor and sprayer out of the shed. Now's it's a matter of getting it measured and rebuilt and repairing the others.'

Willie John said they have received a lot of calls from farmers looking for feed and he said they had been able to get out to them all thanks to the work of local farmers, agri contractors and neighbours who were busy clearing the massive snow drifts from local roads.

A lucky escape at the farm of Robin Bailey in Kilmuckridge where a shed roof collapsed
A lucky escape at the farm of Robin Bailey in Kilmuckridge where a shed roof collapsed

Farmer and local councillor Anthony Donohue from Annagh in Gorey said the devastation some farmers have experienced shouldn't be under-estimated.

"There was 10 and 12 ft drifts in place and if it wasn't for the farmers and the agricultural contractors some people would be stuck in their homes for a month. On Monday 80pc of the roads in North Wexford were open again albeit it some of them down to one lane and suitable only for jeeps. The council was working hard too on roads but they can't get to the local and regional roads immediately.

"I've never seen the likes of this weather before. It was like cutting a track through an avalanche. There are still lads digging out snow and we're hoping to get most of the roads opened up by Tuesday. People have been really excellent.

"I had to prop up a couple of my own sheds but luckily I didn't lose any. When I came out Friday morning I saw that one shed was under pressure and I called a neighbour and he came over and helped me prop it up. Plenty of farmers lost sheds and livestock though.

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

"Unfortunately some sheds are old and the timbers are rotten and with the weight of the snow the trusses cave under the pressure.

"I know one farmer who had to put out 100 dairy cows into fields because he lost sheds. It's unreal the devastation this storm has left in its wake. It's been catastrophic for some farmers.

'I'll be calling for the establishment of a hardship fund to help farmers in the aftermath of Storm Emma. Some farmers had to dump milk but at least Glanbia have said they will pay 20c a litre on dumped milk.'

Anthony paid tribute to Bailey Contractors in Craanford, local farmers, agri contractors, council staff including Neville Shaw and Tom Bates whom he said fielded hundreds of calls from residents over the previous days.

Taghmon farmer Karol Winters had much of his shed and farm machinery wiped out by Storm Emma but amid all the devastation there was still hope as a new calf was born on Monday morning.

"Many of my sheds were destroyed by the storm but we have to keep the show on the road. We had snow drifts up to 12 foot here last Wednesday and Thursday. We had no idea that the storm would be as bad here.

"We were as prepared as we could be for the weather but the snow was just unreal. The snow just rifted onto sheds and sat on the roofs. We have total destruction here on our farm. On Thursday morning the roof collapsed on one she and we planned to move the animals into a newer shed but on Friday that just collapsed too."

Karol said that up to 80 per cent of his farm machinery and sheds were destroyed.

"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."

However Karol said the support he received from the local community has been fantastic.

"We've had great support. The place is full of people wanting to help out. Every neighbour has sheds down. Within a two mile radius I'd say there is up to 15 sheds down. This is destruction on a massive scale."

Chairman of the Wexford IFA James Kehoe said farmers will be counting the cost of Storm Emma for months to come.

"Many farmers have been very badly affected by the snow. A lot of sheds are after collapsing around the county and many have lost animals. Things are fairly tough here in Wexford at the moment. Hopefully with the thaw things will improve.

"On my own farm here I was very lucky and I don't think that I lost any animals but it's a very tough time for man and beast. Several farmers are looking for accommodation for cattle. I'd say that fodder is going to be an issue too because there will be a two week delay on grass now too and straw bedding is very scarce. It's a very challenging time for farmer.

"I'd be hoping that the relevant insurance companies get through the claims as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's at times like this you'd wonder why you'd be a farmer."

James said that farmers and agri contractors had done sterling work trying to clear local and regional roads.

"People brought out machines out to clear the roads. There were people out with loaders and diggers to get the county moving as quickly as possible despite the problems they were dealing with in their own farmyards. People really put their shoulder to the wheel and there was great community spirit.

"Here on my own farm only for the neighbours pitched in I don't know what I would have done.'

In terms of milk losses James said while there had been some he didn't think it had been a major problem for most farmers. 'I haven't heard of much milk being lost but I'm sure there were losses. I was speaking to a farmer in the south of the county who hadn't any water for days so he also had to deal with that.

"This is such a busy time of the year for farmers. They are lambing and there's sheep everywhere. People were bedding out old sheds and doing all sorts of things to make do. It's about keeping the show on the road.

"The Department of Agriculture is available too if anyone needs help."

James said he is also concerned about the threat of flooding as the snow melts which he said will add to the problems of bedding shortages. 'I've never seen the likes of the snow before. There were 10ft drifts in places. Friday we couldn't get into our farmyard off the gate and there's still a few gates that are blocked by snow.

"Hopefully we won't experience any significant flooding as the thaw comes but we will have to take it day by day as the snow melt."

Robin Bailey, a beef and sheep farmer near Kilmuckridge had a lucky escape on Friday morning when the roof of his slatted shed caved in following heavy snowfall.

"I had just finished pushing in silage with the tractor. After I reversed out, the roof just collapsed; more of it has fallen since. No one was injured and none of the cattle were trapped. I was able to let them out a gate into another passage for the time being", he said.

Due to the blizzard-like conditions experienced on Wednesday between 3ft and 4ft of snow had accumulated on the shed's roof in places.

Farmers John and Patrick Fleming lost four suckler cows after the roof of one of their sheds collapsed as a result of the heavy snowfall.

The roof of the cubicle shed, fell in on 12 cows. John and his son Patrick pulled out ten of them alive and two dead. Two of the ten then had to be put down as a result of their injuries.

New Ross Standard