Farmers urged to prioritise safety in the face of mounting pressure

Farmers have been urged to prioritise safety during the difficult weather by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock.

“There is a high risk of slips and falls which can lead to serious injury. The problem is that while everybody knows this, farmers can have an accident in a split second due to a momentary loss of concentration.

This is all the more likely when farmers are under pressure to care for livestock, with problems like frozen water supplies, burst pipes, tractors not starting and young calves and lambs particularly vulnerable to chills.

“In addition, this is the peak season on many farms for calving and lambing which means long hours and pressure to get everything done,” he said.

Sherlock reminded farmers of the need to have a fully-charged phone with them at all times and to ensure that family members know their whereabouts. He also urged farmers to look out for their neighbours, especially the elderly and those living alone.

These sentiments were shared by the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) Pat McCormack.

Farming is an occupation where you can’t simply turn off a switch and farmers still have to go out and milk cows, deal with cows calving, take care of young stock as well as having to work around freezing pipes and other associated problems.

In those circumstances, McCormack said it is “absolutely essential” that farmers take extra precautions during this period. He advised farmers to reduce their workloads to the “absolute minimum possible”, without compromising their own safety during what is likely to be very difficult period.

He echoed Sherlock’s calls on people to contact elderly or vulnerable neighbours to ensure that they are safe and to provide assistance if required.

Spare capacity should be shared around – IFA

Meanwhile, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association, Joe Healy, has asked farmers with spare shed capacity to share with neighbours who are in need.

The impact of Storm Emma, with heavy snow falls and freezing conditions, has left extremely difficult working conditions on farms across the country, Healy said. He urged farm families to take all safety precautions.

For sheep farmers, lambing capacity is becoming a problem – because they cannot get their stock out, the president said. He appealed to farmers who have spare capacity in their sheds to make it available to neighbours with newborn lambs.

Healy also took the opportunity to call on co-ops hold the February milk price to support dairy farmers through the horrendous impact of the snow storm.

“Interrupted milk collections, increasing milking times, difficulties keeping animals fed, watered and warm are only some of the challenges dairy farmers are facing through the snow storm.

“Co-ops have understandably not been able to maintain collection frequency since Tuesday, and in many cases those have been altogether interrupted.

“While many farmers have capacity for four milkings in their tanks, they are now all coming under severe pressure. Farmers need to be able to count on their co-ops to make a supportive decision on milk price for February supplies to help them through this very difficult time,” he said.

Healy reminded farmers who are alone at this time – and struggling to access services, supplies or fodder – to make contact with their local IFA branch for support, where necessary.