Farmers fear for sheep on snow-covered hills

Minister for State Andrew Doyle at work on his Wicklow farm over the weekend.
Minister for State Andrew Doyle at work on his Wicklow farm over the weekend.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Hill sheep farmers will be counting losses from their flocks due to the major snowfall in the coming days.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) warned that the biggest risks were in cases where there were dangers of high drifts smothering sheep that had gone into valleys to seek shelter.

Sligo farmer Colm O’Donnell said: “In those areas, they would be susceptible to drifting. That would be a concern, that they would get caught up in it.”

Mr O’Donnell, who is president of the INHFA, said many hill sheep farmers do not have indoor accommodation for their sheep. “I took a decision not to gather them and to leave them,” he said, adding that farmers felt they would have better shelter.

However, Mr O’Donnell said other areas were particularly hard hit, such as Wicklow, the Comeraghs and the Mourne mountain range. 

“The most important thing to alleviate the hunger situation would be the high heather, as they can browse on the tops of that until a thaw comes.

“Where there is a blanket cover of snow on the hills, you could have up to a metre in some areas,” he said.

“I’m sure there will be some losses; it is inevitable with the amount of drifts. They wouldn’t be able to access them yet.”

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The INHFA called for stakeholders to meet again on fodder shortages as the cold snap would exacerbate problems in hard-hit areas.

Mr O’Donnell warned it would also mean that there would be less fodder in southern areas for transport to the northwest.

Many farmers in hard-hit areas are facing severe difficulties, including getting water to livestock indoors due to

frozen pipes, coping with newborn lambs and calves in sub-zero temperatures and getting milk collected on snow-filled roads.

Farmers were trying to clear snow drifts with diggers and tractors, so that milk lorries would be able to collect.

There were concerns of major loss of revenue from milk being spilt due to lack of collections. Milk collections resumed over the weekend across most of the country; however, there were pockets that were proving difficult to reach. 

Irish Independent

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