Animal welfare helpline receives just one call linked to fodder shortage

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine’s dedicated animal welfare helpline has dealt with just one query relating to fodder shortage since last November.

According to official data from the department, during winter 2017 and spring 2018 the helpline has received “only one call” on an animal welfare issue due to fodder challenges. The call was made this week.

A spokesperson for the department said query is being followed up by the District Veterinary Office.

However, the spokesperson also said that the department did receive “a few calls” over recent weeks specifically regarding the fodder transport scheme. These callers were referred to the Fodder Transport Scheme section.

Yesterday, speaking in Leinster House, Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Michael Creed stated that a total of 15 people have applied to avail of the measure to date.

Despite sharp criticism from opposition TDs – who described the scheme as a “failure” and called for the introduction of a meal voucher subsidy instead – Minister Creed insisted that the situation is being “closely monitored” on a constant basis.

In direct response to the low uptake on the measure so far, he said it is “not unexpected” as the processing of applications for payment can only take place when the completed application – including the co-operative declaration and fodder budget has been received.

“I’m conscious that most farmers are looking after food supply through meal supplement. My officials continue to engage with Teagasc and industry on this.”

Mental strain

Fianna Fail TDs also raised serious concerns over the impact of poor grass growth nationwide during yesterday’s session in Dail Eireann.

Tipperary representative Jackie Cahill said: “There has to be a recognition that there is a crisis out there. The very wet autumn and late spring has seriously exasperated grass growth and now there is a welfare issue.

There is also a mental strain on farmers after this long winter they don’t have the cast to push on.

Minister Creed said the key focus on support must remain on fodder budgeting and grass management.

Although he accepted that grass growth is significantly behind last year, based on the data he has been presented with, he believes that national fodder levels will remain “adequate” until the weather improves.

“We are coming to the end of a difficult period that I think we can collectively learn from as we move into the spring,” he said.