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Friday 29 August 2014

Fodder crisis 'is easing' as weather picks up

Mark O'Regan

Published 07/05/2013 | 05:00

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A BOUT of seasonal good weather has heralded the end of the worst fodder crisis Irish farmers faced in over 50 years, an MEP has said.

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Over the last two months, farmers have had to cope with particularly high levels of rainfall for the time of year, with average temperatures well below the norm for early spring.

But farming sources in various parts of the country report that grass growth has visibly picked up in recent days – and the hope is good weather will remain for the next few weeks.

Fine Gael MEP and former GAA president Sean Kelly told the Irish Independent that "the fodder crisis definitely looks like it is easing as it looks like we've reached a turning point.

"The weather we had today is probably the best we've had all year. A week of it would make a big difference," he said.

"It has improved morale because people see light at the end of the tunnel. For many people, the sense of panic is probably passing and within another few days hopefully things will look even better."

However, IFA representatives speaking in Galway yesterday called for an immediate extension of the Transport Subsidy Scheme to deal with the ongoing fallout of the fodder crisis.

Costs

Apart from the cost of extra feedstuffs, estimated at more than €200m this year, farmers will also have to cope with various knock-on costs, such as a decline in the quality of animal being sent to the meat factories.

Farming experts warn that lessons should be learned from the experiences of the last few months, and one of the main objectives was to ensure there would be no repeat of the fodder crisis next winter.

Another important lesson is that at the height of the fodder shortage, it was suggested that householders save their lawn grass cuttings to feed hungry cattle and other animals on neighbouring farms.

But it has emerged this carried major risk, because grass cuttings could contain dog excrement, which is linked to a condition known as neospora.

This is one of the main causes of cattle abortion here and in Britain. A recent research project showed more that one third of all such abortion cases were due to neospora.

Meanwhile, potato planting is finally getting under way in many parts of the country – a month late due to the unseasonably cold weather.

Much will depend on weather conditions for the remainder of the summer.

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