IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart has strongly criticised the lack of action by the Department of Agriculture in providing a cost effective and competitive fallen animal collection service as farmers in parts of the country are left without a service to collect fallen sheep.
In recent weeks, knackeries are either charging up to €50 to collect fallen sheep or refusing to collect them, leaving farmers without a legitimate disposal route for their fallen stock.
Bert Stewart said he has raised this issue directly with senior Department officials this week and demanded a solution be found for the farmers left in this situation. “It is not acceptable for the Department to claim it is reasonable for farmers to deliver their fallen animals to the nearest knackery. A realistic solution must be found and in the intervening time the Department must advise farmers how to deal practically with the situation on their farms.”
He said this latest development highlights the lack of competition and the inadequate service that exists in fallen animal collection, which IFA has continually highlighted to both the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and his officials.
The issue has been compounded by the Department of Agriculture issuing threatening letters in relation to TSE monitoring of sheep to flockowners with over 100 ewes. He said the timing could not be worse for either farmers or knackeries and represents a lack of understanding of realities on the ground.
Bert Stewart said the only contribution made by the Department of Agriculture in recent years to fallen animal collection was to reduce competition in the area by applying the anti-competitive 125/km maximum distance requirement to the TSE subsidy scheme. Despite commitments from the Minister to review the policy and its impact on competition, no changes have been made to it.
IFA has provided the Department of Agriculture with options for an alternative approach following a study tour to Holland, where one provider services the entire region for fees that are a fraction of those charged to Irish farmers.
He said the Department is responsible for an adequate fallen animal collection infrastructure in the country to facilitate farmers in complying with their obligations under the animal by products regulations. The current structure is not meeting this. Bert Stewart said the Department must act immediately, both in terms of the farmers who are left with no collection service for their sheep and in terms of providing a competitive, cost-effective infrastructure for all farmers.