Every dairy farm should have its own standby generator

The calls from Glanbia to secure the use of portable generators on behalf of those milk producers affected by power cuts in the wake of Hurricane Ophelia were laudable.

It was a case of the co-op doing its best to meet the needs of its farmer-shareholders at a time of dire circumstance.

But should this ‘hour of need’ have arisen at all in the first place? Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the 21st century.

Is it not, therefore, to be expected that every licensed milk producer should have his or her own standby generator, so as to cope with the very challenges engendered by Ophelia?

It’s not as if autumn/winter storms are once-off occurrences in this country. Ireland has been ravaged by a litany of severe weather events over the past decade.

And given the latest predictions from Met Eireann, there could be more of the same coming our way over the coming days and weeks.

The reality is that dairy cows should be milked twice per day, possibly once if they are in late lactation. Delays in milking beyond 24 hours leave cows pre-disposed to producing milk with a high cell count and a greater risk of developing clinical mastitis.

So, given this requirement, should it not be made mandatory that every dairy farm in Ireland has its own standby generator, for use during those periods when mains electricity is not available?

If this cannot be made part of the licensing requirement by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, then Bord Bia should step in and make the availability of a back-up generator an Origin Green criterion for every dairy farming business in Ireland.

I would also argue that it is a welfare issue to leave dairy cows ‘not milked’ for a period greater than 24 hours.  

The past five years have seen Irish dairy farmers spending fortunes of money on new milking plants, dairies and farm buildings. So the prospect of buying a standby diesel generator should not be a daunting one. They can be purchased for pretty small money.

By common consent, the milk price is pretty decent at the present time. And market prospects up to the middle of 2018 look reasonably stable.

When such conditions presented themselves in the past, many dairy farmers would have had a rush of blood to the head and committed to buying fleets of new tractors and other items of shiny equipment. But, perhaps this time around, they might like to add the procurement of a standby generator to their wish list.

It’s an investment that could pay a real dividend as we all look towards a very ‘stormy future’.