In December, flooding was at its worst in Co. Roscommon, with vast swaths of land submerged in water and numerous roads impassable. Nearly five months on, however, the effects remain, especially for the farming community.
Acres of land remain under water. Grass is not growing as it should. Thousands of euro worth of fodder has been damaged. All told, farmers have suffered a huge financial loss as a result of the impact of the flooding.
Fine Gael councillor John Naughten, a farmer at Drum, gave an overview of the situation.
“Currently, in the south of the county, there are a significant number of farmers affected, particularly those along the banks of the Shannon and Suck.
“Turloughs and loughs have flooded in those areas. A significant portion of farmers’ lands are ungrazable or covered in water.
“Farmers are unable to allow stock out on land.”
Among the areas in Co. Roscommon that have been particularly flood-hit are Rahara, Lecarrow and Castleplunkett.
“Farmers are losing land because of erosion caused near Lough Fushinagh, Rahara,” John Hanley, the chairman of Roscommon IFA, said.
The crisis is beginning to take its toll on farmers, he said.
“We are into the fifth month of the flooding now: it started at the beginning of December; now we are almost into May. That’s nearly half the year,” he said.
“That has caused physical and mental devastation to farmers and their families and businesses. There are still houses being pumped.”
During the height of the crisis, many cattle were moved to Roscommon Mart for animal welfare reasons. Almost five months later, many remain cocooned in that environment, said Mr. Hanley, who thanked Maura Quigley, the mart manager, for accommodating them.
Independent councillor Laurence Fallon paints a similarly bleak picture.
“The whole county is bad because of wet soil and low temperature,” he said. “Hence, grass is not growing,” he added. “Growth is at least a month behind compared to last year. That is putting a huge cost to farmers because, if there is no grass, you have to substitute (for feeding).” Sheep are the mainstay of the Roscommon farming industry, and wet weather, as Cllr. Fallon explains, affects the animal considerably.
“The very wet winter put an extra cost on farmers because, in order to keep sheep at the right body condition, they have to be fed more substitutes. When animals are wet and cold, it is hard to keep them in proper condition,” he said.
There is no end in sight to the flooding epidemic, and even when it eventually dries, problems will remain, Cllr. Naughten said.
“Certainly, there is a significant effect on the farming community from the extended winter and delays in being able to allow stock out to graze on land, to reduce the fodder cost,” he said.
“And there is going to be a significant additional cost on farmers that wouldn’t have been expected at the commencement of the winter months.”