Beating the ‘Beast’: Advice to keep your parlour running this week

A series of guidelines and advice have been issued to farmers ahead of the fast-approaching ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that will engulf the country over the coming days.

Also Read: Up to 6cm of snow expected as multiple weather warnings issued

Dairy farmers face significant difficulties in relation to frozen pipes and keeping the milking machine going during the sub-zero weather conditions.

This is all the more relevant following the issuing of a Status Red weather warning by Met Eireann this morning (Wednesday, February 28) for: Dublin; Kildare; Louth; Wicklow; and Meath. A Status Orange warning has been issued for: Carlow; Kilkenny; Laois; Longford; Wexford; Offaly; Westmeath; Cork; Tipperary; and Waterford. Both warnings are valid until noon tomorrow (Thursday, March 1).

Got any photos of snowy scenes around the country this morning? Send them in to AgriLand at: [email protected]

Frozen water pipes

Where there is an on-farm supply from a deep well, the deep submersible pump should not freeze – but pipes and fittings from the pump to the pressure vessel / tank, and from there to the sheds, need to be kept free of ice.

Farmers are recommended to have a thermostatically-controlled fan heater in the pump-house. In addition, water pipes to the shed should be underground and any exposed pipes should be insulated.

In very low temperatures, pipes have frozen at the entrance to the shed and inside the shed in the supply to the troughs – as many will remember from the winter of 2010. In such situations, even when thawed out they are likely to freeze again.

People are advised to extend supply pipes to troughs to an external tap. This tap can be left to run at a low rate to keep water flowing where there is an on-farm supply source. This option cannot be used if the water is supplied by the local authority or group scheme, however.

It may be necessary to bring in an alternative supply to fill water troughs or other containers in the feed passage. It may be possible to tap into the underground supply outside the shed and attach a hose to fill these water containers.

Make sure the connection to the underground supply is well-insulated after use and drain all the water from the connecting hose after filling the containers in the shed.

Frozen milking machines

A range of advice to reduce the risk of ice forming in milking machines is also available for farmers.

It is recommended that all doors into the parlour are kept closed. Install a thermostatically-controlled heater in the plant room; this should cut in when the temperature falls to 10°. Items such as the power washer should be kept in the plant room to prevent the pump from freezing.

Let the machine run a little bit longer to ensure that all excess water is removed from the plant after the final rinse. Open the machine at the low points, particularly at the fitter sock. Some machines may also have a drain at the base of the receiver jar. Remove the jetters from the claw pieces and let them hang down.

Farmers are advised to circulate a saline solution through the milking machine, having first made sure that all the detergent has been rinsed out of the plant.

The saline (salt) solution is made by mixing half a kilogram of salt in 5 gallons (19L) of water. Salt will drop the freezing point of water. The machine will have to be rinsed before milking to remove salt traces. If the rinse is inclined to freeze, start milking without rinsing and let the first few gallons go to waste or feed to calves.

Diaphragm milk pumps can also cause problems. Open the locking nuts to allow any excess water to escape or alternatively place an infra-red light over it.