Fallen stock numbers mount in Northern Ireland

Appalling weather has led to a sharp rise in Northern Ireland cattle and sheep mortality, with fallen stock numbers sent to rendering plants increasing monthly since October.

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), rendering plants processed 6,121 cattle during April – a jump of 113% on April last year. Almost two-thirds of those were cows. With cow carcasses averaging 293kg and prices at 271.6p/kg, this represented a loss to farmers of about £3.1m during April alone.

The high mortality stemmed from last year’s poor summer, with livestock on many farms being housed earlier and in poorer condition than usual, said a report by the Livestock and Meat Commission. It was then difficult for producers to improve animal condition over the winter on reduced silage quality and availability. High cereal prices and the late spring had compounded the problems, along with greater calving difficulties and calf losses.

The latest statistics from DARD show 43,000 sheep were collected by the fallen stock scheme last month after heavy snow. These were 30,500 lambs and 12,500 ewes and rams, while 1,140 cattle were also collected from affected areas.

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