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Dramatic increase in dead animals as fodder crisis grips Midlands

Thursday, 12 April 2018

AS THE fodder crisis gripping the country's agricultural sector continues to worsen, unprecedented numbers of dead animals are being delivered to knackery yards as animals are starving to death in alarming numbers.
John Hastings, owner of Beechfield Products and Transport in Roscrea, who disposes of dead animals for farmers, told the Tribune he has seen a dramatic increase in the last six weeks, with 200 animals a day coming to his facility for disposal.
Most of the animals coming into his facility are cattle aged over four years and Mr Hastings said the picture is very bleak at the moment on many farms.
“I've seen a 60-100% increase in the number of animals coming in - some days there has been up to 200 animals. It's normally a little over half that," Mr Hastings said.
“I've heard farmers on the radio saying you won't find a hungry animal anywhere in Tipperary at the moment - but what we're seeing paints a very different picture," he said.
“Other businesses like ours are in areas like Galway and Mayo are inundated with sheep now. What's around our area is mostly cattle, and the really bad part of the last six to eight weeks here is that its mostly cows coming into our facility in Roscrea.
“We're losing a terrible amount of cows at the moment. Some farmers are saying there are too many cattle in the country now and that they were pushed to expand their numbers, but when a bad winter like this one hits its catastrophic," Mr Hastings said.
“There should be animals gone out grazing on the fields since March, but we're now into the second week of April and they're still not out. The beginning of the winter was bad and so the crops weren't saved - we might have weathered that. But when you have a winter with a bad start and finish like this one its very, very difficult.
Mr Hastings told this newspaper many farmers were faced with an impossible situation, where emergency help amounted to too little too late - where time was wasted in Department offices deliberating the issue "while animals starved."
“The Department of Agriculture should have seen this coming and should have had an emergency system in place that should have kicked into action immediately. There was too much talking and not enough action," Mr Hastings said.
Farmers across the UK are also faced with a current fodder crisis, but some stocks are being sourced across the Irish Sea to supply Irish farms - a situation Mr Hastings feels could have been avoided.
“Why do we have to wait for stuff from England and Scotland to come in now? There could have been a subsidised system in place to provide farmers with meal produced by local facilities and we could have looked after our own. Its as bad in the UK for many farmers, but they probably have big areas across the country where straw is grown and there are very few animals - so they can support themselves and spare a small amount for over here," Mr Hastings said.
Over the last eight weeks Mr Hastings has seen the numbers of dead animals coming to his facility double. In that time, he has seen approximately 60 to 100 cows aged over four years every day.
“I'm drawing away around 31-tonnes every day. Some days I'm drawing two loads away, which is somewhere between a 60 to 100 percent increase. It's a lot of money that's going down the drain at the moment," he said.
Farm advisers are telling farmers to sit tight and wait for better weather, while increasing pressure is being applied to the Irish government to extend the fodder transport subsidy scheme launched in January to cover imports as well as domestic supplies.
These latest developments in Ireland's ongoing fodder shortage is causing concern among Welsh farmers who are also running out of feed and has prompted one union to suggest a similar subsidy scheme might be needed in Wales.
The Farmers' Union of Wales said that, while it was sympathetic to the situation in Ireland, there were implications for fodder prices and supply for its own members.
“We fully sympathise with Irish farmers regarding the pressures they are under, but with prices already extremely high in the UK and pressures mounting in parts of Wales, the impact of the Irish schemes for our members is naturally a concern.
“Above all else, farmers in Wales need to see a dramatic improvement in the weather. Otherwise, we will have to urgently consider schemes like those operating in Ireland," the group said.
Back home in Roscrea and the Midlands, John Hastings said that when the weather inevitably improves the pressure will ease, but he hopes the situation will have left a lasting impact on Department of Agriculture officials.
“When the weather takes up the panic will be over - but there was an important lesson to be learned here. If they're (Dept. of Agri) are going to push farmers to expand their numbers they need to have a safety net in place for when the worst happens and its happening now," Mr Hastings said.

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