I woke at 6am and listened. There was nothing but silence. Where was Eunice? Had she died on her way? She had been due to start blowing in Cork and Kerry from 5am. I lay there thinking for a few moments.
I decided I’d make a dash to feed the calves. As soon as the wind started, I’d return to the safety of the house. Though still dark, it felt like a pleasant morning. The full moon was still bright. I walked the 200m to the yard. There were no newborn calves, which was a bonus. I put milk heating for the younger calves. There were six calves born the day before and they would take time.
I started mixing milk replacer for 18 calves. Another 18 would also go on milk replacer at the weekend when the youngest in the pen would be 10 days old. They need that time on whole fresh milk to promote good gut health and get them growing. Each morning I write up the number of litres required for the next 24 hours.
There is a balance to be struck
As we’re milking once a day for the month of February, I have to cover two feeds. The cost of whole milk feeding is enormous and it is important to be selling as much of that valuable February milk as possible.
Once the volume for the calves goes over 200ls and into a second barrel; I know the milkers will be asking questions. There is a balance to be struck. Calves can’t be left short and an eye has to be kept on optimising the milk sales too. I gathered my buckets and started my routine up and down the shed.
I worked fast and methodically, happy out as mistress in my kingdom
I put the radio on and apparently Eunice had already knocked out electricity to many homes. I worked fast and methodically, happy out as mistress in my kingdom.
A gnarling monster
Eunice struck in Woodside as if one turned on a light switch at 7.15am. I often heard of the “calm before the storm”, but this was uncanny. I decided to finish up as quickly as possible and get out of there. Minutes later, I was in a pen feeding three, one-day-old heifers when Eunice showed her mighty power.
One of the promised 130km/h gusts stripped five long sheets of galvanised iron off the far end of the shed, twisting them into an angry, gnarling monster. It gathered ground, thumping and snagging sheets as it went, buoyed by the ferocious wind energy. The little red and white calf and I were riveted to our spot. The two others ran to us in fright. I thought my heart would thump out of my chest as I could now look skyward through the hole in the roof. I vowed to stay put until the storm passed.
Suddenly, the house seemed very far away and the rush to feed my calves, reckless. The mangled monster landed with a ferocious roar over the milking parlour, shattering a Perspex light panel, punching holes and breaking the joist that carried it – a nasty piece of damage that will allow rain to pour in on top of the milkers and animals below until it can be repaired.
I turned off all the lights and lamps and listened for the monster
I waited for the next move. Instead, there was a partial calm. I turned off all the lights and lamps and listened for the monster. It seemed quiet and stationary in the valley above the parlour. I cautiously exited the dairy and ran towards home.
Looking back when it was safe to do so, I was struck with the beauty of the morning, the blowing bare branches, the green countryside, and spring growth. I went into the house and straight to the kettle to start the tea-making process. It was then I realised that I was shaking.
A few hours later, Eunice had changed her mood to softly falling snow as if to beg forgiveness. I wasn’t fooled. She was demonic.
Tim and Colm assessed the repairs necessary to the shed.
The sheet had landed at the roundabout in front of the dairy. It had been lifted right off the parlour roof and over the dairy.
Calls would be made to FBD to begin the assessment process.
Adequate farm insurance is a necessary cost on every farm and does bring peace of mind on days like this. Meanwhile, two cows were calving. Life goes on.