Negotiations with DAFM continue on dead livestock services

The beef crisis overshadowed the recent strike by the collectors of livestock which die on farms.

Negotiations with DAFM continue on dead livestock services

The beef crisis overshadowed the recent strike by the collectors of livestock which die on farms.

For five days, dead animals being left uncollected across the country.

After discussions between the Animal Collectors Association (ACA) and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) officials, agreement was reached that enabled collection of “fallen” animals to resume from September 17.

Further discussions between the Department and the ACA were planned, to progress issues relating to supports for the animal collection service.

Hard times were revealed at the 38 approved knackeries which farmers rely on around the country for disposal of “fallen” livestock.

They process almost 300,000 dead animals per year.

Most of these are small, family-run businesses.

But their services became unavailable, when the ACA announced all knackeries had closed until further notice, due to breakdown of negotiations with the DAFM, in which knackery proprietors sought additional state support.

According to a survey by IFA earlier this year, knackeries charge farmers €10 to €50 for disposal of dead calves; €20 to €75 per weanling (cattle of 6-12 months); and from €60 to €130 for 24 to 48-month old cattle.

The knackeries get DAFM funding for about one quarter of the animals they take in, as part of the Government scheme for collection of fallen cattle (and sheep) aged over 48 months which have to be tested for BSE, an EU requirement.

This Fallen Animal TSE Subsidy Scheme helps to keep the cost of collection of those animals to the farmer capped at €54. It is a €30 subsidy for collection paid to the knackeries (plus €78 per animal paid to the rendering operators which take the animals from knackeries for rendering and destruction). Prior to 2009, knackery operators were paid a subsidy per head ranging from €19.30 for a calf to €68.10 for older cattle.

An Animal Collectors Association spokesperson said, “We are in financial difficulties, and are no longer financially viable. We have been looking for a review of the fallen animal scheme since the original scheme collapsed in 2009.

“We stress that we do not want to put the extra costs on the farmers to make businesses viable,” said an Animal Collectors Association spokesperson.

However, knackeries will be left with no option if they do not receive adequate funding, for this invaluable industry.

Farmers who visit knackeries know it’s a tough business handling dead animals.

It’s not a business that comes to public notice much, but it suddenly featured on prime-time TV at the end of June in the coverage of the disposal of thousands of unwanted greyhounds.

At the time, public representatives said the conditions in knackeries seemed appalling.

The job gets even tougher when knackeries get frequent calls from the DAFM, Coillte, or local authorities, to collect remains of decayed carcases dumped or left to die around the country.

It’s also a particularly tough job during the spring months of the compacted dairy calving season, in which many knackeries handle up to 60% of their annual intake of animals.

As businesses approved and supervised by the DAFM, knackeries are inspected by DAFM veterinary personnel about four times per year to ensure compliance with regulations.

In most cases, non-compliances identified are minor, according to the DAFM.

In September, the Animal Collectors Association said it was unrealistic to think they can keep premises up to EU requirements, without additional finances being made available.

“The Department needs to set rates that recognise the cost of service delivery in 2019. The cost of Government services seems to rise every year, yet they expect the cost of small businesses like fallen animal collection to remain static for a decade,” said an ACA spokesperson.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed recently acknowledged the role of knackeries.

“They perform a really critical function. They play an important role in combating illegal burial or the dumping of fallen stock, and are a vital conduit between the herd owner and the Department for traceability of all fallen bovines by their submission of documentation to the animal identification and movement system.”

He said knackeries serve as centres where his Department can carry out statutory sampling of cattle and sheep, to underpin Ireland’s bovine spongiform encephalopathy and transmissible spongiform encephalopathy disease status.

It was the EU’s BSE epidemic in the late 1990s that ended burial of animals on farms, with the introduction of the Fallen Animals Scheme.

Now, as part of the national livestock disease control system, knackery operators have to keep an up-to-date electronic intake register, which is audited during inspections.

Knackeries say new Fallen Animal Scheme requirements since 2013 have made their job harder. In particular, they say a new 125km haulage distance limit from a knackery to a rendering plant for carcases of cattle over 48 months has created extra operational costs, attributed to reduced competition between rendering plants.

Meanwhile, a poor market for hides, resulting in no demand or a very limited market for knackery hides, exacerbated their financial position.

The Animal Collectors Association said, “It is not realistic to pass these extra costs onto the farmer.

They are already being pushed to the limit and need all the assistance possible to stay in business in very pressing times.

Such questions are likely to be the main issues in further discussions between the Department and the ACA.

For five days, dead animals being left uncollected across the country.

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