Hurricane Ophelia: Power cuts may hit farmers’ ability to milk cows
Impact on agriculture may not become evident for several months when feed runs out
A tractor is positioned to hold a roof down on a farm as as Ophelia hits the Co Clare peninsula of Loop Head. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
The impact of Monday’s severe weather on farmers may not become evident for several months, their representative groups believe.
President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association John Comer said many members would not be able to take stock of damage until Tuesday, as they were currently focused on the welfare of their animals.
The main problem they faced was power cuts, which had an impact on their ability to milk their cows, Mr Comer said. He said the main concern was for the welfare of the animals.
“It’s physically impossible to milk a lot of cows by hand,” he said.
Speaking from Co Mayo on Monday, Mr Comer said the conditions had gone from “genuinely calm” in the morning to bad just after lunchtime.
He said there had been no major issues reported yet concerning animal welfare, but there had been “a lot of power outages” affecting farmers.
“The degree of difficulty [they are in] will be determined when it’s fixed,” he said.
“There’s a lot of our members who just don’t have generators. It’s a big call – it’s an expensive piece of kit.”
Mr Comer said most farmers with fewer than 80 cows would not usually consider buying a generator, but following a serious storm three years ago, some farmers had pooled their finances to share a generator between them.
There were also some issues with trees down and lands flooded.
“But this time of year, animals are getting close to housing anyway. A lot of sheds are ready.”
The ICMSA president said some individuals would have sheds taken down and roofs damaged by the high winds but it would be Tuesday before many of the reports would emerge. Many members would at that stage be seeking advice on how to activate their insurance cover, and details of what damage was covered.
“Sometimes they find that sheds aren’t covered if they are over a certain age. Detail like that is what they come to us for.”
Mr Comer said other issues might not emerge until perhaps February, when farmers discovered that they had used their winter feed up due to housing the animals earlier.
The National Emergency Co-ordination Committee advised farmers to be conscious of the weather warnings in place and not to travel alone when checking on livestock, and to avoid travel during the peak of the storm.