Farmers in Wales have united to tackle the problem of fallen stock disposal.
A group of 17 farmers have established the first co-operative-owned stock incinerator in the UK just in time for the start of lambing.
The £36,000 facility, at Derwydd Farm near Cerrig-Y-Drudion, in Clwyd, was officially opened by the presidents of the two Welsh farming unions, who praised the self-help approach of the farmers involved.
They said they were particularly impressed by the initiative shown by members in raising the entire cost through grants, including £26,000 of EU Objective 1 funding.
Co-op secretary Llyr Jones, who provided the land on which the incinerator was built, said the original intention 18 months ago was to construct a more modest burner on the site, but that would have cost him £9000.
At first two friends wanted to join him, but news spread and soon others farming up to four miles from his unit asked to be included.
By the time membership closed flockmasters running over 15,000 ewes had signed up.
Scaling up increased the bureaucracy and costs involved, but the group worked with the small business assistance organisation Agriscop to explore available grant aid.
“We approached the National Fallen Stock Company, but it was not very helpful. In the end we managed to get three grants covering 100% of the costs,” Llyr Jones said.
The top loading incinerator cost £13,000, and was designed by Waste Spectrum Environmental at Worcester to meet the co-op’s anticipated requirements.
The load space is 1400mm x 768mm x 620mm, and the burner has a maximum load capacity of 400kg.
It can be fired using diesel, liquid petroleum gas or natural gas.
Despite getting grants, members agreed to invest 25p for each ewe on their farm into an operating fund.
Until fuel consumption can be measured over several weeks they will also pay £5 for each ewe incinerated.
Each member is responsible for placing his sheep in the burner and for washing down the reception area after use.
Waste water is collected in an under floor tank and spread on land under a sheep dip disposal licence.
Ashes are collected in drums and end up on a licensed landfill site outside Wales.
“We did a survey of losses last season which indicated that the incinerator had the capacity to cope with members’ dead sheep, and even some newly born calves,” said Llyr Jones.