Water shortages ‘a key animal welfare issue’ – ICMSA

Dairy farmers are particularly dependent on water schemes to ensure that adequate supplies are available to their cows, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association’s (ICMSA) Farm and Rural Affairs Committee chairman, Denis Drennan.

He says this is not a commercial consideration, but a key animal welfare issue.

“It is hugely important that Irish Water and other responsible bodies communicate early and frequently with the ICMSA in the event of water shortages or any limitation of supplies,” he warned.

Speaking to AgriLand, he said that he is aware of one farmer in Kilkenny, milking over 170 cows, who was paying in excess of €4,000 per annum in water charges and coincidentally heard on local radio that the water supply in his area was to be temporarily cut off.

The chairman explained that the basic need for a dairy cow is 120 litres of water per day and that has to be available or the animals will become distressed.

He claimed that anxiety is growing within the sector, as reports have circulated about cases where farmers have been told that there may be issues with their water supplies.

Drennan said that the ICMSA feels it is incumbent on the bodies, levying substantial charges for supplying water, to make available feasible ‘back-up’ water supply facilities and explain clearly and frequently what the situation is on water availability.

He concluded on a more general point by noting that farmers – like many other people – will be astonished after eight months of continuous rain and barely six weeks of dry weather, that communities are being told there’s a water shortage.

There is no farmer in the country getting free water. Farmers paying for public water schemes should be offered a back-up if the system goes down.

According to Drennan, the situation does not speak well for our water reservoir infrastructure or water management systems.