Knackeries at breaking point with 'enormous backlog' of dead animals
Collection services at one of the largest knackeries in the midlands are close to a standstill due to an influx of fallen stock after the recent storms.
Portlaoise-based John Styles told the Farming Independent that he has never witnessed such large numbers of farm animals, especially cows and sheep, arriving for processing at his premises.
John Styles & Sons is currently dealing with between 130 and 170 fallen animals a day, while a Meath knackery confirmed it took in 32 tonnes of dead livestock last week.
Mr Styles warned that farmers battling fodder shortages are likely to suffer even more losses in the coming weeks, which will in turn put his knackery under further pressure as he struggles to secure staff to work overtime. "We are currently working seven days a week and simply cannot keep up with the demand. We just do not have enough staff and cannot get enough drivers to do collections and deliveries to the rendering plant," he said.
Mr Styles, who has been in the business for 30 years, said that the fallout from the storms is far from over. "Farmers are still finding dead sheep on their land, weeks after the last storm has passed. And that situation is likely to get worse as fodder supplies begin to dry up.
"My heart really goes out to these men and women who have had the worst winter," he added.
"We are trying to provide a valuable service but it is proving impossible at the moment," said Mr Styles.
"Usually we might get one or two dead cows from a farmer during the season, but at the moment that can be anything up to seven or eight." Knackeries run by the Kildare Hunt Club and Ward Union Hunt have also handled record numbers of fallen stock in recent weeks.
In some cases these have been healthy dairy cows which have slipped and suffered fatal injuries on snow and ice.
Dairy farmer Fran Lally, who also oversees operations at the Ward Union Hunt knackery, said they have been dealing with a large number of dead sheep, "especially ewes that were close to lambing. The backlog has been enormous".
The Kildare Hunt Club knackery has increased prices for its services. Spokeswoman Pam Braithwaite said this is due to rising overheads.
"We had to look at the bottom line. We also discovered we had been one of the cheapest in the area," she said. "It is the first price increase in eight years."
The fee for the delivery of a dead ewe is now €30, up €10.
The pressures on knackeries comes as fodder shortages worsen with poor grass growth and land conditions preventing farmers letting out stock in parts of the countryside.
Meanwhile, insurer FBD estimates that storm damage claims will amount to €6m-€8m.
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