In the eye of another storm
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.
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