Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (526)

Willie Penrose


526. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that gypsum is now a very prominent form of animal bedding being used by farmers in slatted units and other holding facilities; his views regarding the promotion of such material for this purpose, due to the toxic gases therefrom when it is broken down; if in this context he will implement a ban on the use of same for this purpose in view of the fact that it has been banned in other jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12788/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am advised that use of gypsum as a bedding material is a recent development. A very small number of farmers are using it, with lime and sawdust more commonly used as bedding material for cubicle beds for Dairy and Suckler cows. Slurry is an inherently dangerous material that produces toxic gasses, including hydrogen sulphide, particularly during agitation. The addition of gypsum to slurry has the potential to increase the toxic gas levels, but all slurry is highly dangerous and must be handled with great caution. My Department is examining the potential of the use of gypsum to increase the level of hydrogen sulphide production in slurry. Other jurisdictions are evaluating the use of gypsum as a bedding material with research being carried out in the United Kingdom. It is expected that this research will be completed by the end of the year. My Department has been in contact with the Health and Safety Authority and Teagasc and will consider what action, if any, may be necessary. Farm safety is a number one priority. My Department works closely with the Health and Safety Authority on farm safety issues. My Department is represented on the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee which includes representatives from the Health and Safety Authority, Teagasc, the IFA, the ICMSA and others. My Department has issued guidance on the safe handling of slurry and this should be followed at all times. Slurry should only be agitated from a point outside of the animal house, with all of the animals removed from the house, all doors and vents fully opened, and on a breezy day. Further, for best practice, operators should also stand back from tank while the tank is being agitated as toxic gasses will be released during the agitation of any slurry.