Department warning: Safety is paramount as blizzards land

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has urged farmers and rural-dwellers to prioritise safety and to take note of the Status Red snow-ice weather warning in place as Storm Emma bears down on the country, taking the form of severe blizzards.

With this in mind, the department has issued further guidelines for farmers to deal with the harsh conditions.

Farm Safety

Farm safety is paramount during the bad weather, the department has stressed. The more significant concerns on farms relate to the provision of water, shelter and feed to livestock – whether housed or being out-wintered.

It is essential that farm safety is prioritised above all else. In the case of sheep flocks it is essential that they are brought to a sheltered area in advance of the worst of this event, the department has advised.

Where farmers are tending animals, they should ensure they carry a fully-charged mobile phone and let people know where they are – checking in regularly.

If tending to animals in remote locations, it is advised that a second person should accompany the farmer. Officials have also cautioned that extra care is needed around the farmyard and that farmers must ensure that concrete areas are gritted or salted.

Farmers have been warned that falls pose the biggest threat during this type of weather event.

“Do not attempt to remove snow from roofs of farm buildings. To avoid damage to pumps, milking equipment etc, drain thoroughly,” a department official stated.

Water for livestock remains a significant problem on farms with pipes and ball-cocks for supply freezing; however, it has been stressed that continued access to water is important at this time when cows are calving and sheep lambing.

Animal Welfare

The department’s 24-hour animal welfare helpline will continue to be monitored over the coming days. Members of the public with any concerns can contact the department’s helpline on: 0761-064408; or 01-6072379.

The department has been in constant contact with industry facilitating orderly operation and wind-down of processing operations. A temporary reduction in such processing will not impact on retail supplies, the department has stressed.

The department wishes to emphasise that, as farmers deal with the difficult conditions on farms at present, there is a need for safety first at all times in the period ahead.

Farmers urged to look out for each other

Meanwhile, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) Pat McCormack has urged all farmers to take extra precautions prioritising their own safety, their families’ safety and also their neighbours.

McCormack said that given the nature of the farming – an occupation on which you can’t simply turn off a switch – individuals will not be able to stay inside during the weather alert with cows having to be milked and calved, freezing pipes and associated problems and young stock having to be minded.

Taking this into account, the president said it is absolutely essential that farmers take extra precautions during this period, to reduce their workloads to the absolute minimum possible without compromising their own safety.

McCormack asked people to contact elderly or vulnerable neighbours and ensure they are safe and well over the coming hours and render assistance if required.