#OPHELIA: Limerick farmers share generator to get cows milked

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

Farmers in Murroe, where this photo was taken and tweeted by Munster and Irish legend Peter Clohessy, were out with chainsaws to clear trees from the road

Farmers in Murroe, where this photo was taken and tweeted by Munster and Irish legend Peter Clohessy, were out with chainsaws to clear trees from the road

FARMERS and neighbours pulled out all the stops to ensure cows were milked in County Limerick this week.

Once the wind dissipated on Monday evening Martin Stapleton, IFA national farm business chairman, left Oola for Kilkenny to hire a two tonne generator. It has been going non-stop ever since.

Eamon English, Oola farmer, said they have set up a rota of farmers between them to help their neighbours after ex-hurricane Ophelia struck.

“It is an animal welfare issue to get cows milked. Cows are still milking well. If it was near December it would be different. For example, one cow was forgotten about because it was dark when the farmer was bringing them in and she is very sick today. Everybody is pulling out all the stops to ensure cows are milked. Local electrician Declan Beary came down from Galway to set them up with the generator. There are still outages in this area,” said Eamon.

Timmy Ryan and his son Raymond, Newtown, Pallasgreen, were very glad to get the generator on Tuesday. The cows hadn’t been milked since Monday morning.

“We still have no power. We got a generator yesterday off a neighbour and milked them yesterday and this morning. We are hoping it will be back by this evening. We’ve had no power or water either. We’re under pressure. The well feeds most of the farm and the well is off. We brought water from a stream to a neighbour. The way neighbours have rolled in together and kept each other going is just amazing. There is nobody being left out.

“The co-ops are facilitating us in terms of collecting the milk and coming around as quick as they can. We’re Dairygold and it is a big help,” said Raymond. This has been replicated across the county with farmers looking out for their neighbours. 

John Egan, Murroe, was one of many men out with chainsaws clearing roads of trees. “There was a good few out in Murroe-Boher on Monday. It’s great community spirit,” said John. Fellow ICMSA man, Tom Blackburn, Limerick chairman said specific districts of the county had been affected, there were very significant numbers of trees down and damage to sheds.

“There will doubtless be damage to machinery and plant reported over the next few days. But the most pressing matter now for dairy farmers would be the lack of power in their milking parlours in those areas where outages have occurred.  The problem here obviously is that where farmers don’t have generators or access to a generator then you have major problems around milking herds twice daily. 

“The challenge is going to be around pooling generators and helping each other until the power is back up. We have to be realistic here as well and remember that restoring power to everyone after the winter storm of 2014 took longer than was initially anticipated. So farmers may have to come together - which they will do as we have seen in Pallasgreen– and loan and swap generators and other equipment. 

“Ophelia wasn’t perhaps as disastrous in some areas as feared but people should recognise that the reason for that was that we were prepared and forewarned and sincere gratitude is due to bodies like the Met Office, the gardai, county council staff and others who managed to make what could have been an utter disaster someway manageable,  said Mr Blackburn.

Cllr Gerald Mitchell, Hospital, said: “There is a mobile unit going around for some farmers, a mobile generator. One particular farmer didn’t get his cows milked until two o’clock in the morning and I know one big farmer is after purchasing a generator for around €10,000 today.”

IFA national dairy chairman, Sean O’Leary said: “The most pressing problem on farms is where they are left without electricity after a power outage which it could take days for ESB to deal with.  Ensuring that cows can continue to be milked is crucial from an animal welfare point of view, and maintaining refrigeration is essential to ensure the valuable quality milk produced is not spoilt or wasted.” Mr O’Leary urged farmers who continue to have difficulties with their power supply to make contact with the IFA and with their co-op.