Farmers face into severe winter



Published 21/11/2012 | 16:56

Cousins, Murt (left) and Paddy Breen pictured in Paddy's cattle shed in Coolnageragh, Scartaglin, where his herd has been since the end of September due to the unprecedented spell of bad weather. Credit: Photo by John Reidy

FARMERS are facing one of their most severe winters in living memory as they struggle to find and pay for enough feed for livestock - the fallout from this summer's rainfall and the early onset of winter.

Many farmers are now being forced to buy in silage from outside the county and some have even gone to the extreme of purchasing dedicated beet-chopping machines in order to process sugar beet - a feed more and more are turning to in desperation.

Meanwhile, the price of silage and cattle rations is skyrocketing as a result of massive demand and limited supply.

"It's the worst year I can ever remember," Scartaglin farmer Paddy Breen told The Kerryman.

"It seems to have been about the worst year we've ever had as a neighbour of mine, who's 96, can't remember anything like it."

The wet weather meant that very little silage was cut as farmers struggled to get machinery into flooded fields. The cattle had to be brought in and fed supplies intended for the winter - costing farmers dear all over the county.

Paddy is now paying between €320 and €350 per tonne of cattle feed, €100 dearer than this time last year. Bales of silage, meanwhile, have risen by a similar percentage and are now costing farmers up to €35 each.

"One of the biggest problems is that it is so hard to source feed because it isn't there and what is there is of very average quality. We also had to take the cattle in early and start feeding them silage by October 1. Usually they wouldn't be brought in until November 1."

The health of Mr Breen's livestock is good but milk yields are down in the order of ten per cent, he said. "It takes its toll on all the family with all these financial pressures," he said.

Many farmers have eaten heavily into their overdraft facilities for the year already. All are praying for a good spring.

ICMSA officer Edward O'Sullivan said that extreme measures have been adopted in some instances. "It's so hard to get silage that some people are buying sugar beet and are then having to buy beet choppers to process it. These are extreme measures."

About the one good thing this year was surplus 2011 silage, he said. "But for that things would have been much worse."

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