In the eye of an­other storm

Irish Independent - Farming - - Comment -

LAST week's storms were an­other re­minder of just how ex­posed the agri-sec­tor, and par­tic­u­larly farm­ers, are to the va­garies of the weather.

This is the third year in four that the coun­try has been hit by con­di­tions that can only be de­scribed as freak­ish. Three years ago, we had the Arc­tic freeze; last year, we had cold Siberian winds that killed off growth till the start of May; and, lately, we've been lashed by eight storms and hur­ri­canes in as many weeks.

If this is cli­mate change then there ap­pears to be noth­ing too ben­e­fi­cial in it for Ire­land, par­tic­u­larly from a farm­ing per­spec­tive. As we went to press, the sit­u­a­tion ap­peared to be re­turn­ing to nor­mal, with the ESB claim­ing that the num­ber of cus­tomers still to be re­con­nected was down to un­der 19,000.

The worst af­fected ar­eas were in south Wex­ford, north Kerry, parts of east Lim­er­ick and north-east Cork. Dairy farm­ers are fac­ing the brunt of the dif­fi­cul­ties in af­fected ar­eas, with many strug­gling over the last week to get freshly calved cows milked.

A spokesman for Dairy­gold es­ti­mated that 30pc of their 3,000 sup­pli­ers were cut off for some length of time. Kerry Group, the west Cork co-ops and Glan­bia were the other dairies worst af­fected.

LOW

The gen­eral con­sen­sus is that mat­ters could have been worse, with the num­bers of cows calved still on the low side and with night-time tem­per­a­tures be­low 3C, there was no real pres­sure from a milk cool­ing per­spec­tive.

ESB crews have done Tro­jan work over the last week to get cus­tomers re­con­nected, but the com­pany has ad­mit­ted that, in some districts, it could be the end of the week be­fore all cus­tomers have elec­tric­ity again.

For farm­ers who are still with­out power, this is not good news. Up to now, shar­ing gen­er­a­tors and us­ing neigh­bours' milk­ing par­lours has kept the show on the road, but the pres­sure is ramp­ing up as each day passes.

On the is­sue of gen­er­a­tors, the ESB has warned that cus­tomers us­ing them should ob­serve the safety pre­cau­tions and en­sure they do not con­nect a gen­er­a­tor to a socket or dis­tri­bu­tion board.

Do­ing so will cre­ate a feed onto the elec­tric­ity net­work and will pose a dan­ger to oth­ers, in­clud­ing re­pair crews.

The weather has also taken its toll on the cat­tle trade. It is re­ported that a ship tak­ing cat­tle for Libya has been de­layed for a fort­night be­cause of the storms. Given the dif­fi­cul­ties in the cat­tle busi­ness at the mo­ment, each day that ship is de­layed is cost­ing farm­ers money they can ill af­ford. Here's hop­ing for bet­ter weather.

SOME­THING hap­pened in Ire­land last week. Yes, here was a storm, a storm of storms, one of the worst ever recorded, per­haps even ' bi­b­li­cal'. Look­ing at the shock­ing pho­tos in news­pa­pers, dig­i­tal me­dia and TV it was some­times hard to be­lieve that this was our lit­tle green tem­per­ate coun­try.

Those who work on the land were badly hit, par­tic­u­larly dairy farm­ers. For many, it is the start of the calv­ing sea­son and the loss of elec­tric­ity was very dis­tress­ing.

It meant there was no way of milk­ing the newly calved cows whose bod­ies are primed to be burst­ing with milk but not when they were parched with thirst. How ironic is it that an­i­mals which would usu­ally be head­ing out­doors in small num­bers this time of year were house­bound be­cause l and was f l ooded, ye t suf­fer­ing from ‘the drought'.

This is real gen­uine hard­ship – eco­nomic, phys­i­cal and emo­tional – for both man and beast. Work­ing in near Arc­tic tem­per­a­tures that chill to the bone, the driv­ing sheets of rain, blan­kets of snow and howl­ing winds. But what re­ally upsets farm­ers is when their an­i­mals are stressed.

Stre tches of coastal land were sim­ply erased. A gal­vanised sheet didn't have to be loose for a shed roof to be stripped bare. There were trees down ever ywhere, a lot of them ev­er­greens, knocked like domi­nos. The coun­try­side vi­brated with the roar of chain­saws.

This is just a minute sam­ple of the

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