An agreed framework on farm plans has been made between Government and the farming sector.
“Images of cows up to their knees in mud, unable to lie down and rest and calving in these conditions is unacceptable to me and I’ve heard loud and clear from the public that it’s unacceptable to them too,” O’Connor says.
“Winter crop grazing is necessary in some regions to provide enough feed for stock at a time when there’s not a lot of pasture. Done well, it provides animals with quality feed to keep them warm over winter.
“Done badly it means cattle can be knee deep in mud which gives rise to completely justifiable concerns for their welfare. Winter grazing also has an environmental impact and the Government is working on ways to address that too.”
Some farmers are falling well below acceptable winter grazing practice, he says.
“Unfortunately, it’s another situation of a small number of farmers letting the side down and bringing everyone into disrepute.”
O’Connor says MPI’s animal welfare unit has stepped up its compliance activity and is watching.
“I am bringing together a taskforce of vets, industry leaders and officials to identify the issues and bring me some solutions.”
The group will first meet “in the next few weeks” and will report to the minister on first steps by the end of the month.