No disruption to feed supplies; guidelines on deliveries

Everyone must keep safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and farmers and feed mills need to work together to ensure that the animal feed chain is unaffected while taking all precautions to reduce the risks associated with the spread of COVID-19.

That is the main message coming from the Irish Grain and Feed Association (IGFA), which has clarified that Animal Feed is deemed as a critical business from a human food point of view and also in terms of animal welfare.

A spokesperson for the IGFA has stated that all of the ports are open and at this time raw materials are readily available to the feed mills.

Feed mills have been working and preparing Business Continuity Plans for the past number of weeks and this will continue as circumstances change in the on-going battle against the spread of COVID-19. The IGFA spokesperson re-iterated that “there is nothing at the moment that is going to change in the supply chain, but we are taking all the precautions required”.

Heather Peppard, the nutritionist with Brett Brothers, spoke to AgriLand and stated: “Farmers are part of the food chain so we are being assessed as a critical business. Animals have to be fed because we need dairy produce, beef, pork, and lamb, so because farmers are part of the food chain the input supplies will continue to farms.”

There is no need for farmers to panic buy as it will create pressure in the supply chain at a time of year when feed businesses are coping with peak demand. Farmers should plan ahead, get their orders in on time, but there is no need to order 15t when only 5t is needed.

Minimise contact with delivery drivers to protect yourself and them

IGFA members wish to protect their own staff and also their customers and farming families so they are appealing to farmers to put plans in place to minimise contact with delivery drivers.

It is important for farmers to remember that this is how the delivery driver is operating at this time and they will not be offended when there is no one in the yard.

Heather explained that “lorry drivers are very conscious of hand and personal hygiene and are requesting farmers to respect social distancing”. She explained that it is normal practice for delivery drivers to call farmers ahead of their arrival and to get instructions as to where to leave the feed delivery.

In the majority of cases person-to-person contact should not be required for farm deliveries if the delivery area is clear of any obstructions and precise delivery instructions are given. Bin signage is very useful as an aid to helping drivers.

“The docket will then be left in a safe place and payment can be made by arrangement with your sales representative either by post, online or over the phone. Sales representatives are not out doing routine calls without a prior appointment but are available to deal with any queries from farmers over the phone.

IGFA is advising farmers to reduce human contact as much as possible in a bid to protect the farmer and feed business employees.

Summary of guidelines for on-farm deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic from the IGFA:
  • Place order in time;
  • Give instructions about where to put feed to reduce the need to meet delivery driver;
  • Lorry drivers ring ahead and take instructions on where to leave the order;
  • Have clear signage on bins, feed stores to make it easier for delivery drivers;
  • The farmers should not engage with the drivers unless absolutely necessary;
  • Farmers may leave hand sanitizer at the delivery point;
  • Delivery dockets will be left with the goods, again there should be no contact with the driver.

Collecting feed

The IGFA is advising farmers who normally collect their feed, and particularly those who are in an at risk group, to get that feed delivered and follow the instructions given above.

Those in at risk groups should also consider ordering more than they usually do to decrease the amount of interactions with others.

However, if a farmer is collecting their animal feed from the local merchant they should ring ahead to order. Drive into the yard, stay in their car and drive away once the feed and the docket have been placed in the trailer or the boot of the car. Cash payments can be made over the phone or using contactless payment facilities.

When collecting animal feed from a merchant:
  • Order feed in advance;
  • Pay in advance over the phone;
  • Stay in your vehicle when you arrive;
  • Wait to be loaded;
  • Once the feed is loaded the docket will be given to the driver;
  • The farmer may then drive away.

Technical Advice

Sales representatives, technical staff and nutritionists within feed businesses can give a lot of backup and technical advice over the phone.

If farm visits are deemed necessary they can be arranged with minimal person-to-person contact depending on the situation at farm level. If farmers require technical advice they should contact their feed supplier as normal.

‘Goods in’

The IGFA has also stated that when deliveries are being made to mills or merchants: “Ensure your ‘goods in procedure’ is clearly communicated to all transporters.”

The statement went on to say that when delivering goods to sites “drivers should remain in trucks and phone for attendance”.

Businesses are also advised to “avoid hauliers leaving their trucks and entering your premises unnecessarily”.

Follow the HSE guidelines

Everyone should remember to keep hands washed and adhere to the guidelines given out by the HSE. Social interactions are to be kept to a minimum. Click here to view guidelines from the HSE