BY EMMA CONNOLLY
WEST Cork co-ops pulled out all the stops to ensure as few farmers as possible had to spill milk despite treacherous road conditions in the wake of Storm Emma.
Areas around Bandon, Kilbrittain, Ballinspittle, Clonakilty and Timoleague were worst hit with many side roads impassable even by tractor.
Bandon Co-Op Deputy CEO John Coffey praised his staff for their ‘all-hands-on-deck’ response to the challenge. They put tankers in locations like Ballinadee, Inishannon and Watergate Street in Bandon where farmers could travel to with their tanks.
They also called in the help of outside hauliers with teams working late into the night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, collecting milk and delivering feed.
Farmer Donal Cronin, Coolmain, Kilbrittain, took matters in his own hands last Saturday when he heard that a Barryroe Coop lorry was in his area.
‘We were collected on Tuesday morning, but by Saturday the tank was overflowing,’ said Donal who farms with his father Dan.
‘It was hard enough to milk in last week’s conditions so it would have been awful to have had to spill,’ he added.
‘We knew there was a Barryroe lorry a few miles away and that farmers were bringing milk to it in their tanks. We didn’t have a tank and there was a stretch of around 60 to 100 metres of snow that blocked the lorry getting to us. I rang the coop and they said if we could bring the lorry up, to go for it.
‘With the help of our neighbours, Maurice and son Jonas Fielding, we used their four-wheel drive tractor to clear the way, and another tractor belonging to them to pull the lorry up.’
Driver John McCarthy, couldn’t have been more helpful, said Donal.
Barryroe Co-Op quality manager Hugh Holland said they used contractors to pull milk lorries into difficult spots. Ballinspittle was particularly badly hit, he said, where it took contractors around six hours to dig out a collection access point.
Meanwhile, the chair of West Cork ICMSA, Tom Wilson, said it was essential that farmers who milked their cows in very difficult conditions suffered no loss due to delays in milk collections.
He noted that Glanbia, the state’s largest processor, had committed to paying 20 cents per litre for milk they were unable to collect, but he pointed out that this still left the farmers down 15 cents per litre due to no fault of their own.
The Enniskeane farmer also welcomed the Government’s announcement that farmers who removed snow-related hazards on public roads will not be liable for any claims during the current extreme weather conditions.
He was particularly emphatic that any farm inspections carried out over the next periods must take account of the damage done to sheds and guttering, etc by the extreme weather and, in no circumstances, should penalties be imposed for non-compliance where buildings and equipment was damaged by the snow storm.
Corney Buckley, West Cork IFA chairman, said farm buildings in Clonakilty had been damaged by the weight of snow.
‘Most importantly, even though people were stretched, no one was injured. It was a very difficult and trying time though and given that we’re entering into our seventh wet month the next few weeks will continue to be tough as a longer winter will mean higher costs for the farmer.’
A spokesman for the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said they were precluded from refunding anything that was an insurable risk, which included milk.
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