Saturday 19 January 2019

Farmers counting the cost of storm

A farmer bringing hay to their animals in Ballinaclash on Saturday.
A farmer bringing hay to their animals in Ballinaclash on Saturday.

Deborah Coleman

The farming community throughout Wicklow was one of the worst hit by the snow and many farmers are still dealing with the fallout.

According to Wicklow IFA chairperson Chris Hill, there have been a variety of challenges presented to farmers since last Wednesday.

Danny Summers was one such farmer who welcomed IFA President Joe Healy to his farm on Monday to show the extent of damage caused to his cattle shed.

'I'm not getting too worried about it as the main thing is that nobody was hurt. Things can always be worse. The cattle were out feeding at the time which was very lucky. We will get it repaired in time and it will all be OK,' he said.

On a wider scale, Mr Hill said that those based in west Wicklow and the Roundwood areas were worst hit, but that animal welfare, property damage, water shortages and the dairy crisis have had a widespread impact.

'Down in Arklow and the south of the county we got off pretty lightly compared to those in west Wicklow but even on the outskirts of Arklow, farmers have been dealing with collapsed sheds and snow-covered land where animals needed feeding. In Roundwood, some farms were blocked with 15 foot snow drifts and struggled to get to their animals. In other areas across the county, frozen pipes have presented us with water shortages and many have yet to assess the damage as they are still under feet of snow,' he said.

Mr Hill said that while many farmers were in a position to use machinery to clear snow, others were not, such was the sheer volume of it.

In these cases, farmers who had to deposit bales of silage on foot were at risk of being caught in snow drifts or becoming stranded out on the land. One Donard-based farmer had to trek for eight miles in the snow to discover that he had lost 21 weanlings in a drift.

'There was huge danger to farmers who had to access animals. Sheep can only survive for so long under snow and many farmers would have had to walk the land trying to count them up,' he said.

'We are not geared up for this like other countries. We don't all have snow shoes and vehicles, so we have to make the best of it with what we have. Even those who had indoor lambing had to keep them alive and out of the chill,' he said.

Dairy farmers faced the added challenge of trying to deliver milk within the five-day food safety deadline, otherwise having to dump it.

'Milk cannot be processed after five days in storage so farmers tried to get to collection points to drop it off. It is welcome that Glanbia have announced compensation of 20 cent per litre for lost milk, which is about half of the real sale value but there is still an unfortunate loss for some,' he said.

Mr Hill said that while the thaw has yet to set in fully in many parts of the county, farmers are not out of the wood yet, as the risk of flooding looms.

'We could see flooding issues in some areas depending on how quickly the thaw comes. The fallout of the past few days will certainly be experienced by farming families for some time. Many would not have storm cover insurance and this would mean a very costly clean up operation for many.'

Wicklow People