GALLERY: Animal welfare and road conditions a concern in rural Kildare

Constant snow fall and drifts a challenge

Conor McHugh


Conor McHugh


The extreme weather is presenting a challenge to owners of livestock, with access to grass limited for cattle, sheep and horses. 

With normal feed buried under seven or eight inches of snow, hay and silage deliver by farmers is now more vital than ever.

Most animals are hardy enough to survive this kind of weather, and clever enough to get themselves into shelter, or adopt a position, with their rumps to the wind that will keep them warm.

"Cattle can cope with low temperatures provided they have plenty of feed," Teagasc advises farmers. "Even young calves are not seriously affected by low temperatures if they have shelter from chilling wind and driving snow."

However, getting the feed to animals can present a conundrum for farmers if roads are impassable. 

Teagasc advises that they plan "how you will get food and water to your stock. It is vital that they have access to water, so check supply in sheds regularly and make provision for alternative sources if shed supply is prone to freezing, for instance in  plastic drinkers.
"Dairy cows are likely to be back indoors full-time, farmers need to watch for mastitis, cubicle space, cleanliness of housing 
increase supplementation by c. 2 kg per head per day to compensate for loss of spring grass
"While the extreme weather is going to delay the turnout of replacement heifers to grass there is probably no need to introduce extra concentrates to these animals; once the snow melts these animals can be turned to grass."

In general Teagasc advises farmers to be careful about their own personal safety, always bringing their mobile and telling people they're heading off and how long they'll be - as well as wearing suitable layers of clothing. 

And if searching for animals in snow, "they should wear high visibility clothing so they can be easily seen".