Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, together with Minister of State with special responsibility for Farm Safety, Martin Heydon, urged farmers to put safety first and take precautions as Met Éireann forecasts an approaching cold snap of weather.
The Ministers advised farmers to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and prepare their farms for the impact of the cold winter weather.
Minister McConalogue said, “I urge all farmers, fishers and everyone in rural areas to ensure that they are ready for the approaching cold spell. The priority must always be the safety of people and then livestock. Farmers should ensure that their yards are safe, firstly by tidying up to remove material which can cause trips or falls. All dripping taps, pipes and drainpipes should be repaired to avoid slippery patches of ice in the yard.”
Livestock, including younger stock, can cope with low temperatures provided they have plenty of feed and shelter. However, water supply can be a problem for both outwintered and housed livestock during freezing conditions.
Minister McConologue added, “we are facing into a period of cold weather which can play a part in making farmyards more dangerous while also having an impact on livestock. It is important to plan early and attempt to address potential challenges before they arise. Create an inventory of what supplies you might need to keep your yard and farm safe such as salt for gritting as well as adequate feed stocks.”
“As a starting point, it is important that all animals have free access to water. Supplies of drinking water should be checked daily, and surface ice broken on troughs twice per day. It is important that taps should not be left running to prevent freezing. A cold snap of any length of time can very dangerous for livestock and people. In particular, it is important to check in on neighbours and the elderly in the locality to ensure that they are safe and well.”
Farmers are advised to put safety first and stay away from roofs during the cold snap. Roof repairs should only be carried out when weather conditions are suitable and using the appropriate equipment. A mobile elevated work platform, such as a cherry picker, are relatively inexpensive to hire compared to the cost of a serious incident resulting in lifechanging injuries or worse.
Minister Heydon said, “safety must always be the number one priority for every farmer. Farming is a high-risk occupation, and poor weather increases these risks. So, take the time to ensure that you and your farm are prepared for the cold weather. Simple steps such as having a few bags of salt on hand can minimise the risk of slips or falls. It is only by identifying the risks now that steps can be taken to ensure jobs can be completed safely.”
Minister Heydon also asked people to check on elderly neighbours and to keep in contact with them regularly over the winter, “as a community, it is important that we look out for one another. Over the long evenings there is a chance to pick up the phone and get in touch with someone to ask how they are. That phone call could mean a lot to the person on the other end.”