Farm Ireland

Wednesday 16 January 2019

How to mentally and physically get over the recent bad weather

The scene on John Fagan's farm in Westmeath during Storm Emma
The scene on John Fagan's farm in Westmeath during Storm Emma
John Fagan

John Fagan

What a week we had coming into March. I am physically and mentally exhausted in the aftermath of the 'big snow'. I actually think I am in shock from it.

I was lucky enough that lambing wasn't in full swing, my start date was March 5, so I thank God for small mercies. The snow blew in all over the sheds. I did my best to keep it out but the end result was that I had to hire in contractors to clear out all the bedding which was completely saturated.

It was non-stop working around the clock to try and protect my stock and make sure nothing would happen to them. It was never going to be the case that I would adhere to the weather alert to stay inside after 4pm.

Farmers don't abandon their animals. I know that farmers all over the country have been badly hit, it was mentally and physically exhausting.

The only thing to do now is remain positive and put it behind you and look forward and not look back.

One thing we must learn, and Teagasc and advisory boards need to accept, is that farmers need to plan based on the reality of extreme weather events. Extreme weather is now the norm and not the exception.

Lambing has kicked off, and we're tipping along nicely.

Trying to make adoptions where possible and keeping an eye on the sheep is like spinning plates.

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Monitoring and supervision is the key to a successful lambing and obviously the weather helps. I iodine the lamb's navels using a teat dipper. I find that this is really effective at preventing joint ill as it fully bathes the navels.

Spraying it on can be hit and miss as you might only get one side of the navel done. At lambing you need to keep the levels of infection down.

Lime all the bedding and clean out the pens after each ewe and lamb. I try to get lambs out within 24 hours of lambing.

It's weather dependent but usually after 48 hours a lamb is home and hosed and is well able to survive outside.

Now that I can breathe again after the storm, the focus is not only on the lambing but on grass growth. I think the snow that fell actually insulated the ground, if that could be possible, and protected it somewhat from the frost. I'll get out with the fertiliser spreader shortly and spread Urea around the fields that I have earmarked for early turn out.


I intend to reseed the ground that I had in Kale, so as soon as things dry up somewhat I am going to run a disc over the ground to stimulate any weeds that are growing and spray them off. Reseeding has its virtues but it's expensive and it has to be done right.

The most important thing that you can do before reseeding is taking a soil sample to find out the PH of the soil. It needs to be around 6-6.3.

I like to have plenty of clover in the seed mix, but what I find frustrating is that while clover is great to have in the sward, it is hard to treat other weeds such as docks and thistles without killing clover.

So, by discing the ground before the reseed I'll be encouraging the weeds to grow and prior to reseeding I can then easily clear them out with glyphosate.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

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