The Stormont Executive agreed to pay for the recovery operation as part of a multimillion-pound aid package for the farmers worst hit by last month’s snowstorm.
While 3,120 dead livestock have been disposed of thus far, officials expect many more collections will be needed. The animals, mostly sheep, were entombed when snowdrifts up to 20 feet deep blanketed many high-lying fields.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill announced progress in the collection as she visited an affected farm in Plumbridge, Co Tyrone.
As well as free disposal, farmers who have lost animals will also be in line for a hardship payment from a £5m-plus Executive emergency fund. “To date 3,130 livestock have been collected across the affected areas,” said Ms O’Neill.
“This immediate work is very important for a range of animal health and environmental impact factors. Also, the final hardship package will be linked to verifiable losses. The department will get this necessary information as farmers have stock removed and disposed of by the approved renderers. We have made it clear that farmers in affected areas will have these collection and disposal costs met by the department.”
The location of Ms O’Neill’s visit was significant as some farmers in the Sperrins area of Tyrone had expressed concern over their eligibility for the free collection service.
The concerns were raised because their properties were not in post code zones published by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) – the majority of which were in counties Down and Antrim.
The minister moved to reassure all farmers that had lost livestock in the blizzard. It is clear that there are smaller discrete areas in other locations in the north, such as the farm I am visiting today, where farmers have been equally affected by the snow storm,” she said.
“The vast majority of calls received from such farmers to date, including a number from around the Sperrins and other affected areas in the west, have been accepted into the scheme on the basis of the evidence provided.
“The evidence that is taken into consideration includes information provided by the farmer, information available from DARD staff on the ground who have visited farms in the immediate vicinity and satellite imagery of snow fall.”
n Paris officials have come up with an eco-friendly way to keep the city’s grass trim – by enlisting hungry sheep to replace gas-guzzling lawnmowers. The initiative, which started this week, sees four sheep from an island in Brittany put to work munching the bountiful grass of the Paris Archives.