The ‘Beast from the East’: Your farm storm checklist

Milk processors and department officials are warning Northern Irish farmers to prepare for cold conditions forecast for the rest of this week, as a weather system dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’ nears the UK and Ireland.

A Status Yellow weather warning has been put in place across Northern Ireland for Wednesday, February 28, and Thursday, March 1.

‘Help would be appreciated’

Milk processors have asked for farmers’ assistance as tankers face the prospect of narrow icy lanes and roads – many of which will be ungritted.

A message from Lakeland Dairies to suppliers read: “With ice and snow forecast, help in having yards and lanes gritted and tractor towing facilities available to assist with collections would be appreciated.”

But it’s not just the impact on logistics which should be considered.

“Even if we don’t get severe weather on this occasion, it is still worth keeping a close eye on the weather forecast and making some preparations for your farm,” a department spokesman said.

“The combination of low temperatures and wind chill can have significant impacts on the welfare of new born and young animals.

“A few moments spent now to prepare your farm for the worst, could save you time, money and difficult situations in the long run.”

Here’s a list of things DAERA says you should be thinking about ahead of this weekend:
  • Livestock on hills and upland areas are at most risk during heavy snowfalls and should be moved to lower ground or sheltered locations.
  • Some fodder stocks could also be moved closer to the animals in case access routes become blocked with snow.
  • Farm lanes and isolated roads can become unsafe in the event of snow or ice, so consider the need for marker signs at the edges.

Clean drinking water is essential on all livestock farms, but its supply to livestock sheds around the farm may be interrupted if pipes freeze in the frost or burst following a thaw.

On dairy farms, livestock drinking water accounts for between 50% and 75% of all water usage with lactating dairy cows drinking around 100L a day.

Water is also needed for cleaning and hygiene. Intensive pig and poultry units are very dependent on water supply and are subject to significant animal welfare risks if fresh water is not available.

  • Ensure that you have at least 24 hours worth of water stored and check that all tanks, pipes and pumps are in good working order and not leaking.
  • You should have a contingency plan in place if water disruption is for longer than that. It is also worth having a few extra plumbing fixtures and fittings in the workshop to repair leaks.

Ask yourself a few questions and create a checklist to identify actions required around the farm.

For example:
  • If feedstuffs or other deliveries are disrupted, do you have sufficient in store to see you through a few more days?
  • If milk collections are delayed, do you have extra storage capacity in place?
  • Have you tested your stand-by electricity generator should electricity supply be disrupted?

Should you need to contact DAERA for animal welfare advice, please call: 0300-200-7840. Other emergency numbers can be found on the department’s website.