'I hope we won't see this again in our lifetime'

John King, Lowmuckenaugh, Lixnaw, feeding his dairy cattle on his farm.
John King, Lowmuckenaugh, Lixnaw, feeding his dairy cattle on his farm.

Dónal Nolan

"YOU can't lose perspective. You have to keep a positive attitude and you need to pull yourself on every now and again by reminding yourself that this is a short term problem we hopefully won't see again in our lives."

For Lixnaw dairy farmer John King it is the support of family and local farmers that is getting him through these desperate times. He is lucky he has such a robust outlook in keeping the bigger picture in mind at all times. As he says himself there are many men who are not, particularly those in more isolated circumstances.

Standing in John's farm in Lowmuckenaugh in Lixnaw in glorious sunshine on Thursday, it was hard as a layperson to grasp the crisis gripping the land. His place looked blessed, with a view sweeping out over the sunny plains to Kerry Head and Knockanore. Even the grass looked lush and healthy.

Unfortunately, the cattle can't get to it due because of the wet. "I've never seen anything remotely like it. The last time hay was imported in this way into the country was in 1947 I heard. Some years you might go short a couple of weeks in mid-April but you'd call to a neighbour and they'd look after you. Nodoby has it now, though," John said.

Instead, he found himself calling on his brother-in-law in Kilkenny for help. "Our farm discussion group, Teagasc, my silage contractor and Liffey Mills in Kilkenny have made a massive difference to getting through this. The discussion group brings a number of us together and we can talk about things and how to deal with the crisis.

"Teagasc has been great with advice and my silage contractor was fantastic in sourcing hay for me initially. But when his sources dried up I managed to source feed through my Kilkenny brother-in-law's supplier Liffey Mills. He asked them if they were going to Foynes with a lorry and that we'd pay the excess down here. They stepped up to the mark in fairness and we got 20 tonnes; I got a week out of it for my cows," John explained.

A week is a long time when there's no food to be had through normal avenues. John managed to graze his cattle on a patch on Wednesday. "But it was only for four hours, the ground is just too wet."

"The biggest issue for us is the total uncertainty we're faced with in getting enough fodder. And financially there's a massive hit. About a month ago we decided here that making money out of the business was not our number one priority, our priority is simply keeping it going so we will have money when things improve."

And it is next to impossible to get at the many other jobs that need doing. "We're spending so much time sourcing feed and feeding. We have to keep the feed in front of them, but it is highly stressful managing that at the moment."


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