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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Farmers defied severe winter to keep cattle losses to a minimum

Sheep keeping an eye out for the Beast from the East. Pic Steve Humphreys
Sheep keeping an eye out for the Beast from the East. Pic Steve Humphreys
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

Cattle losses increased by just 2.5pc at the start of this year despite the fodder crises and severe weather conditions.

However, sheep losses are more difficult to quantify since ewe and lamb deaths do not have to be reported.

According to the AIM database run by the Department of Agriculture, some 98,425 on-farm bovine deaths were recorded for the first three months of 2018.

Despite it being one of the toughest winters on record, this was just 2,300 head higher than the same period in 2017 when 96,125 animals were lost.

January proved the toughest month for animal deaths relative to last year, with a total of 22,282 cattle and calves dying, up 18pc on the 2017 figure of 18,912.

A further 34,510 died in February, a slight increase on the 2017 figure of 33,481 head.

The highest number of deaths was recorded in March when 41,633 cattle and calves died. However, this was still lower than that for the same period in 2017 when farmers lost 43,732 head.

Sheep losses

While cattle losses were surprisingly low given the atrocious weather and severe fodder situation, sheep losses were considered to be far higher.

Significant numbers of ewes were lost in upland regions during the blizzard conditions in February and March, while heavy early lamb losses were also reported.

However, exact figures are not available since the Department of Agriculture stated that sheep death figures are not recorded.

Indo Farming

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