Tuesday 15 October 2019

Six cows killed as farm 'wasn't ready for snow'

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Management and staff on an industry-backed farm were not adequately prepared for Storm Emma, leaving six cattle dead, a new report has found.

The report into the effects of Storm Emma on the farm was commissioned by the board of the Greenfield Dairy Farm.

The farm, which is eight years into a 15-year project, is a limited company with three shareholders - Glanbia, the Agricultural Trust (which publishes the 'Farmers Journal') and Edward and Eamonn Phelan, who own the land. State body Teagasc provides management services and advice to the farm.

It is a 120ha farm just outside Co Kilkenny with more than 370 dairy cows and a farmyard with out-wintering facilities.

The report found that there were insufficient silage stocks on the farm before Storm Emma as well as governance and management issues.

Six cattle died during the storm, including four calves that died of exposure.

All the report's recommendations have been "fully accepted", according to a statement on behalf of the interested parties in Greenfield Dairy Farm, including the need for enhanced communication and improved facilities to protect the animals.

Annual feed budgets for the farm will incorporate sufficient reserves to allow for severe weather events.

The report says the board "may need to consider a review of the overall project" to take account of the "experience gained".

It also says "the governance and management structure of the project is unclear" and it "could not establish clearly who is actually in charge on the farm".

It called for improved facilities to protect animals in a similar weather event.

The report says that prior to the storm, two issues arose - there was a calculation error which meant the cows did not receive the agreed concentrate levels, and there was a need to buy extra silage.

Storm Emma hit Ireland on Wednesday, February 28. On the Greenfield site it continued to affect the farm until Monday, March 5. During that time, 26cm of snow fell on the farm with drifts of up to 1.5 metres.

Of the 370 cows, 290 were on the farm at the time, and 80 of those were in-calf cows and were moved to a nearby farmyard for shelter.

On the morning of Friday, March 2, the farm manager contacted Teagasc to report that more than a metre of snow had accumulated. Three Teagasc staff travelled to the farm, along with members of the Phelan family and a member of the 'Farmers Journal', to help. Over the next 24 hours four calves and two cows died "due to the adverse effects of Storm Emma", another calf died due to accidental injury and there was one stillborn.

The report was produced by an independent group of exports, chaired by the former general secretary at the Department of Agriculture, Tom Moran.

Irish Independent

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