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Severe Weather Advice to Farmers

03 March 2020
Type Media Article

By Ivan Kelly, ASSAP Adviser, Teagasc, Galway/Clare

Storm Jorge rages over the country as I write, the 3rd serious weather event to hit the west of Ireland in the month of February, following on from Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, as warming oceans and a changing climate fuel higher-speed winds. The heavy rain that accompanied these storms has resulted in thousands of acres of farmland being flooded, along with destruction to homes and property. Met Eireann charts show rainfall in the month of February was recorded at 230ml in the Athenry weather station. This was up from in 73ml in February 2019 or over 300% increase in rainfall on the previous year. 

In severe cases, cattle had to be moved out of farmyards to safety in the past week due to the risk of flooding. Soils are saturated, making grazing difficult or impossible. Many farmers have to cope with the financial burden of purchasing extra concentrates to replace the unavailable grass, management challenges regarding longer housing of stock and waste storage issues with tanks filling and land being unsuitable for spreading slurry.

These severe weather events are unfortunately getting very common over the past few years. While the designated agencies continue to plan for extreme weather events including alleviating the risk with improved flood relief measures, what are the key things all farmers can do to help protect themselves, their families and farm?

Farm Safety:

  • Do not enter flooded areas unless it is absolutely necessary and ensure you tell someone where you are going. If possible work in pairs.  Bring a charged mobile phone in a secured pocket.
  • Flood water can lift items such as manhole covers and slats so extra vigilance is required where these are present.
  • Stay off roofs and high places particularly in windy conditions. Take extra care when using ladders which should be secured. 
  • When using farm vehicles for transport within farms vigilance is required at road edges, banks of streams or embankments as these may be undercut by flowing water.
  • Turn off electricity at the mains where there is a risk of water ingress. Fallen electricity wires are live and dangerous. Never approach or touch them. Call the ESB emergency number 1850 372999.
  • Make sure any pesticides, herbicides or chemical products on the farm are locked away in a cool, dry place. It is important for animal and environmental safety reasons that these do not leak into water supplies.
  • If phoning the Emergency Services (112 or 999), Give accurate directions to your location using the Eircode if possible.

Flooded Farmland/Farmyards:

  • Where there is a risk that outwintered animals will become isolated, move to higher ground where there is access to bring feed and fodder.
  • Talk to neighbouring farmers regarding available shed space in the locality or consider selling some stock to reduce housing and feed demand.
  • Where the animals are at risk, please contact the local DVO with any queries on movement or potential welfare issues.
  • Where ground conditions throughout the farm are not optimum for slurry spreading but tanks are full, pump out no more than is necessary to alleviate the immediate animal welfare problem. This should be applied to the driest part of the farm, and away from watercourses and drains.
  • If water is already above the level of the central passageway or the apron, then there is no point in pumping etc. because water will continue to flow into the tank. In these cases, animals will have to be removed from the sheds.
  • Where stock have to be kept indoors after calving/lambing due to flooded lands, examine and utilise all available accommodation e.g. storage sheds, machinery sheds


  • Where water entered silos/bales there will likely be some loss of digestibility. Preservation may be OK in the short term but in some cases this may deteriorate over time. Measuring silage pH will give some guide on this – this may need to be repeated over time. Contact the local Teagasc office for assistance.
  • If seals on bales have been ‘broken’ these bales may need to be re-wrapped to prevent ‘composting’. To be of benefit this re-wrapping would need to be undertaken rapidly after the floods recede.


  • Operating machinery in floods can risk damaging the machine. Engine air intakes must not take in any water. Cars are particularly vulnerable. In very deep water conditions, it’s possible to damage electronic systems in modern tractors. Sensors and wiring located in many parts of the tractor are prone to water damage in extreme flood conditions.

Animal Nutrition:

  • In the event of loss of grazing ground or silage damage due to flooding, it is important that each individual farm assesses their own situation in terms of feed availability. The local Teagasc office are available to give advice on nutrition including fodder and ration budget calculations.

Useful Contact Numbers:

  • When farms are flooded or damaged, isolation and stress often occur. It is really important to keep in contact with your family, neighbours and friends, Advisors and farming organisations. Seek support when required and discuss solutions to the challenges you face.

Table 1:

Useful Contact Numbers

Emergency Services 999 or 112   
ESB emergency 1850 372999  
Galway DVO 091 507600 Arás an tSáile, Lakeshore Drive, Renmore, Galway, Co. Galway, H91 AN2E
Galway AES 091 507600 Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co. Galway, H65 F961
Teagasc Athenry 091 845200 Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co. Galway,  H65 R718

Table 2:

Total rainfall in millimetres for ATHENRY up to 27/02/2020 (www.met.ie)

2020 118.7 229.2 347.9
2019 84.1 73.5 161.4 67.7 46.1 69.7 71.0 297.3 185.3 115.0 111.4 144.3 1426.8
2018 173.2 78.0 81.4 82.2 62.5 25.2 69.7 126.1 98.8 73.8 86.3 125.0 1082.2
2017 47.4 87.5 142.6 13.5 61.4 119.5 136.8 103.1 118.3 123.3 88.9 157.7 1200.0
mean 116.7 87.8 94.7 72.0 75.3 79.6 86.5 107.8 100.3 128.9 120.3 123.2 1192.9