Simplification of fodder scheme signalled – ICSA
The ICSA has been actively campaigning for the simplification of the fodder scheme.

The ICSA has stated that it has received assurances from Department of Agriculture officials that the Fodder Transport Support Measure introduced by Minister Michael Creed at the end of January will be simplified.

The scheme is difficult to navigate as has been evidenced in the low take up

Following a meeting between the ICSA and Department officials in Backweston, the ICSA Connaught/Ulster VP Jim Harrison said: “ICSA has received an assurance from the Department that elements of the scheme will now be revisited with a view to making the scheme more user-friendly.”

To date co-ops have reported an extremely low uptake in the fodder scheme, and only two official submissions have been made to the Department for compensation.

Last year

Last year, over 400 farmers in the north and northwest stated that they were short on fodder to some extent following an unseasonable wet summer in the region.

The scheme has been mired in controversy, as the ICSA uncovered that only certain counties were eligible for the scheme.

ICSA Cavan chairman Hugh Farrell said: “It has become blatantly apparent that the scheme is difficult to navigate as has been evidenced in the low take up to date.

“This message has now been taken on board by the Department who will assess where changes can be made in order to make the scheme more workable.”

Farrell concluded by urging farmers to complete fodder budgets and submit them to their agricultural advisors to make the Department aware of the growing demand for fodder following Storm Emma, which has resulted in an extended housing period.

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Five heifers struck down in six days by lead poisoning in Mayo
The current dry spell has increased the risk of poisoning, according to the veterinarian who attended a case in Mayo where heifers died from lead poisoning. Ger Flanagan reports.

A dairy farmer has been left "shocked" and "sickened" after five of his heifers died in just six days due to severe lead poisoning that they picked up on commonage land in Mayo.

The farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said his herd was grazing on land in the Dererin area of Ballintubber when they were poisoned and that he was completely unaware that they had been poisoned due to how quickly the animals died.

“The commanage is sectioned off with electric fencing wire and on the Wednesday [June 27 last] I found one heifer in a bog hole,” he told The Mayo News. “It wasn’t stuck or anything, but it was frothing at the mouth, didn’t look in great shape and died within a few hours.

Testing

“I rang the vet, and he thought maybe the heifer had been in the trench for too long because it was such a hot day. On Saturday then, I found another one in a trench, frothing at the mouth, and even though she got an injection, she was dead the following day.

“Before the vets came out on Sunday to do a post mortem, a third one was wandering around, and when he [the vet] went to treat her, she was in a trench and had died.”

The following Monday, after the farmer brought the third dead cow to Sligo for testing in the lab, it was revealed that the cows had died due to severe lead poisoning.

The land was then inspected to try to determine the source of the poisoning. The farmer found a stone covered in red paint lying in a ditch and sent it to the lab that had tested the cow. The results showed that the stone was covered in a "highly toxic lead paint".

Two more cows that were displaying symptoms similar to those shown by the deceased animals were subsequently put down on the farm.

“I could not believe it,” the farmer said. “It was probably old red lead paint that was used on carts years ago and dumped there and the cows might have licked it.

“I don’t think it’s produced any more. I wouldn’t have known what it was if I had seen it. Even the vet was baffled – he was used to lead poisoning, but with such a severe dose, they didn’t develop symptoms.”

Appeal

Local vet George O’Malley, who treated the heifers, revealed that the content of lead absorbed into the kidneys of the farmer’s cows was "as high as they have ever seen in the lab".

O’Malley, who has over 40 years’ experience as a veterinary surgeon, says the lack of moisture in the grass leads to cows going "mooching" (covering long distances looking for water), and he appealed to farmers to keep an extra eye on their stock for poisoning during the fine weather.

“After this prolonged spell of dry weather, cattle will go mooching,” he told The Mayo News. “They do things they normally wouldn’t do and are prone to eating anything because of the low mineral content of our soil,” he said, explaining that the cattle are craving something they are not getting from the grass.

No chance of survival

O’Malley went on to say that the affected cattle in Ballintubber could not have recovered once they had ingested the poison.

“I have seen lead poisoning all my life; I’m nearly an expert on it at this stage. There are different types of lead and some are absorbed more rapidly than others. They [the five heifers] had no chance of survival.

“I would advise farmers to watch their cows every day and be aware of all the poisonous plants in the ditches,” he continued. “In Mayo, there are lots of ditches with poisonous plants. The animal’s liver can’t cope with the chemicals they may ingest,” he said, adding: “It’s very difficult to recognise a poisoned animal until it dies.”

Thousands lost

The farmer estimates that, financially, his loss is "in the thousands" – and that this will increase should he decide to replace the stock.

Although it comes as a huge blow, both financially and mentally, the farmer says he has no choice but to move on.

“It’s a bad shock and a sickener when you see heifers likes that,” he said. “I was walking up every morning, thinking that the first thing I will have to do is ring [fallen-animal collector] Vincent Maloney to take away a dead animal.

“That would be another €100 gone, along with the lab costs and vet costs that I have had to suffer. I had no insurance for that type of thing because you can’t really insure against it.

“But I’m over it now and just have to move on.”

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Aurivo adds drought support payment to unchanged base price
Aurivo has added a drought support payment to its unchanged base milk price for June.

Aurivo co-op has announced an unchanged base milk price of 28.94c/l excluding VAT for milk supplied in June. This follows an increase of 0.5c/l in May.

A weather bonus of 0.5c/l will also be paid in recognition of difficult weather conditions experienced by farmers in recent weeks.

In a statement, the co-op said: "Butter returns have been supporting milk prices in a weak protein market, however ongoing volatility in dairy markets has led to decreases in butter prices over the past five weeks. In this context, Aurivo will continue to pay the maximum milk price that market conditions allow."

Elsewhere

Aurivo joins Dairygold, Kerry and Lakeland in holding prices in recent days. Glanbia is the only processor so far this month to increase its milk price and also introduce a drought support payment.

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Another fall in Global Dairy Trade prices