Farmers urged to plan ahead to protect animal welfare following poor harvest

Chief Vet Robert Huey
Chief Vet Robert Huey

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey today urged farmers to plan ahead after poor growing and harvesting conditions this year have left fodder in short supply.

Mr Huey said the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is aware that waterlogged fields have forced many farmers to keep cattle indoors through the worst of the summer weather and that grass intended for ensilage could not be cut across much of the country. Consequently more conserved feed than normal has been used up for the time of year.

To minimise livestock feed problems in the winter and spring time DAERA urges farmers to assess their conserved feed stores now and to ensure they have sufficient provisions for all the stock they intend to overwinter. In doing this it is important to assess both the quantity and the quality of the feed available to prevent later problems associated with poor diet.

Mr Huey, said: “It’s very important that farmers plan ahead in a year like this. Taking hard decisions to remove less productive stock early in the winter will help conserve fodder, improve the efficiency of the farm business and ensure that good standards of animal welfare are maintained. The wet conditions will also have increased the risk, for example, of liver fluke, clostridial disease, pneumonia, lameness and general ill-thrift. Preventative measures can decrease these risks.”

The Chief Veterinary Officer added: “If your livestock have specific veterinary issues or you see signs that animal health problems are emerging then contact your Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) as early as possible. Your PVP will provide advice to help you to protect your stock from malnutrition and distress. They will be able, for example, to carry out pregnancy testing of animals which will help in determining their individual nutritional needs or inform a decision to sell them.”