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Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Cold Weather Update March 3rd

The Department of Agriculture Food and Marine continues to work with other Departments and agencies in the National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG). Following the meeting of the NECG today, the Department asks all stakeholders to remain vigilant in respect of the issues outlined below.

Farm Safety

The impacts of Storm Emma have varied considerably across the country with areas along the east and south most impacted as are farmers in high ground. For other areas, the challenges are around low temperatures but in all areas, farm safety remains of paramount concern. 

The continued problem of freezing water pipes remains the most significant challenge as the majority of stock are housed at this time of the year.

Most farm buildings are constructed to shelter against westerly winds but the prevailing easterly wind direction and accompanying snow has lead to some blowing of snow into buildings which has posed a particular challenge.

Significant on-farm concerns relating to the provision of water, shelter and feed to livestock will remain and persist. This will apply whether livestock is housed or being outwintered. A key concern will be in respect of dealing with frozen pipes. 

Where farmers are tending animals, they should ensure they carry a mobile phone and let people know where they are, checking in at appropriate regular intervals. Where attending to animals in remote locations, a second person should be in accompaniment.

Care should be maintained around the farmyard when clearing drifted snow and ensuring concrete areas are gritted or salted. Falls represent the single biggest threat during any clean-up period after such storms and appropriate care needs to be taken to avoid such occurrences. 

Any attempts to remove snow from roofs of farm buildings should be avoided.

To avoid damage to pumps, milking equipment etc, thorough draining should be undertaken. It is essential that water pipes in the farmyard and also leading to outside water troughs are properly insulated and obviously this remains particularly important at this time when cows are calving and sheep lambing, giving rise to a heightened demand for water.

With a thaw due in the coming days, there will be significant volumes of slush and water to deal with, ensure drains and gullys are clear to prevent flooding of tanks.

Advice on farming during severe weather conditions is available on the Teagasc website.

Animal Welfare

The Department’s 24 hour animal welfare helpline continues to be monitored and this will remain the case over the coming days. Members of the public with any concerns can contact the Department’s helpline on: 

  • Call Save 0761 064408 or 01-6072379. 

There have been 35 calls to the helpline since Wednesday, all of which have been appropriately responded to.

As a matter of course, water troughs should be checked twice daily, and ice broken on external troughs as needed. In the case of sheep flocks it is essential that they are brought to a sheltered area during the worst of this event.  

Operational issues for industry

Meat plants - Veterinary staff in Department supervised livestock slaughter plants have been liaising closely with Food Business Operators and managers in recent days in relation to the current weather situation, to try to minimise any difficulties as regards the safety of staff and the welfare of animals. Based on advice from the NECG, the majority of Department supervised slaughter plants throughout the country were closed on Thursday afternoon and Friday. Subject to local conditions being suitable, the majority of plants are planning to resume operations on Monday.   

Milk collections have been curtailed in certain areas due to access difficulties, and some farmers are now at, or close to, storage capacity.  The industry is working to return to collection as quickly as possible. The Department is coordinating with the dairy industry, and with other Government agencies, to expedite collections.


Most fishing vessels are in port. Howth and Dunmore East are quiet. Castletownbere, Dingle, Ros-a-Mhil and Killybegs are operating as normal.


Date Released: 03 March 2018