Almost 29,000 farm animals died in North cold snap
Stormont Minister for Agriculture confirms livestock casualties due to extensive snowfall
Massive snowdrifts in parts of counties Down and Antrim in late March left sheep stranded in remote areas of Northern Ireland and British and Irish relief helicopters were brought in to airlift feed. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Almost 29,000 farm animals died following recent cold weather in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.
Massive snowdrifts in parts of counties Down and Antrim left sheep stranded in remote areas and British and Irish relief helicopters were brought in to airlift feed.
Stormont Minister for Agriculture Michelle O’Neill said 28,437 fallen animals had been collected.
“I have obtained Executive agreement to hardship funding measures to assist farmers worst affected by livestock losses arising from the recent snow storm,” she said.
“The first element of this is that my department will pay for the costs of collection and disposal of fallen stock from the farmers most severely affected. This relieves those farmers of a potential cost to their business and protects both the environment and animal health by encouraging the proper disposal of fallen stock.”
Some of the worst snow to affect the rural community for years fell at the end of March and the ground remained treacherous well into April. The Glens of Antrim and the Mourne Mountains in Co Down were particularly badly affected.
Power supplies were cut off, phone signals were down and emergency services had to transport food and medicines to some people in isolated areas using military helicopters from the RAF and Irish Air Corps.
Farmers have reported damage to fences and sheds while thousands of animals which froze or starved to death have been recovered.
The Minister intends to bring to the Stormont ministerial Executive proposals for a hardship scheme.
“The hardship scheme will be specifically for livestock losses and help to mitigate the costs of the livestock losses that have been sustained by farmers arising from the snowstorm,” Ms O’Neill added.
This will be capped at a maximum of £6,320 (€7,500) per farmer, including the collection and disposal costs of the fallen animals.
Farmers who have had fallen stock collected and disposed of during the period April 2nd to 19th by approved renderers will be eligible for the hardship funding.
The Minister added: “The hardship scheme will be framed in light of the information gathered on the extent and nature of losses, which we will build as farmers have stock removed and disposed of by the approved renderers.”