INCREASINGLY inclement and unpredictable weather is causing significant damage to livelihoods. For one Ballymacaw farm, a recent storm, which arrived without any Met Eireann weather warning, has left a bill of approximately €200,000 in its wake. Gabriel and Georgina Lodge own a dairy farm, which holds 200 cows at present, and when Gabriel finished milking a fortnight ago at 9.30am, he noticed the weather was getting worse and made the decision to go home, a few yards down the road.
By 12.30pm, the wind had whipped up to a frenzy and lightning was piercing the sky. When he checked the security cameras as a precaution, the damage was immediately evident. A new silage tank had incurred severe damage, the roof had broken apart on the cattle sheds and had exposed calves to the elements, and debris was littered throughout the farmyard.
On arrival down to the farm, they saw the cows had migrated to the top shed, frightened by the weather, and the calves were ‘shell-shocked.’ A ring-feeder weighing 200kg had blown across the fields, the stores of feed were greatly depleted having been ruined, and the wind and rain were relentless. Together, they acted fast and as quickly as it came, the storm left, leaving the family counting the cost of the damage, which could not have been avoided in time, even had a weather warning been issued.
Looking around him, Gabriel said: “We had a fire some time ago which caused enormous damage, we had only just begun the clean up from that when this happened. We are far from the only ones affected, this is happening so often now to farms as the weather is becoming more and more unpredictable. The summers are so dry that the grass and feed is scorching and the winters have really destructive forces.”
Yet, Gabriel’s wife, a former staff nurse at UPMC Whitfield, said that while the damage has been costly, there was no damage to their family or to the animals. Looking around, she said: “It can all be repaired or replaced, we have a good insurance policy and we are grateful that nobody was hurt.”
However, she has described the weather conditions as being akin to “a mini tornado”, which took out everything in its path and left just as quickly.
Looking at the changing climate in Ireland, Georgina and Gabriel have said the changes in the behaviour of the seasons will necessitate a change in how they farm. Already, they have begun to look ahead to the feed, which will need to be gathered for next year in order to see them through the winter months. With that in mind, they have had no choice but to buy additional land from family members with the view to turning the grass on the land into feed.
They are now awaiting an insurance assessor who will look at the large silage tank to see what can be done, but the reality is that once it has been compromised, it is no longer safe. The couple are sure that the damage in this case was inflicted by extremely strong gusts of wind and there are no guarantees that this will not happen again. Both Gabriel and Georgina are positive for the future but they are concerned as to the implications for farming in the years ahead as the seasons continue to break their pattern.