Europe-wide drought piles pressure on feed supplies

Joe Devine gets a helping hand from his daughter Isobel on their County Leitrim Farm
Joe Devine gets a helping hand from his daughter Isobel on their County Leitrim Farm
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Securing sufficient feed ingredients for the Irish livestock sector this winter remains a challenge, importers and millers have warned.

The drought across northern Europe and Russia has cut available feed supplies and increased demand and prices for stocks.

John Bergin of feed importers R&H Halls urged both farmers and compounders to plan what they need now and take the necessary steps to secure supplies.

Strong buying of feed ingredients by merchants in July has left the country well provisioned in the short-term, Mr Bergin said.

However, the continuing drought on the continent has hit the availability of key grains and non-grains ingredients.

Mr Bergin pointed out that disastrous harvests across Scandinavia and Germany means that Denmark, Germany and Sweden, traditionally wheat exporting countries, have become net importers of grain this year.

The loss of these major European exporters has changed the sourcing of key ingredients leading to importers having to source and purchase in markets further afield, with consequent increases in shipping times.

Mr Bergin said a combination of a reduced cereal crop gloablly and increased feed demand across northern Europe has led to significant upward pressure on prices.

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Strategie Grains has forecast that this year's EU wheat harvest will not top 130m tonnes, a six-year low.

France's wheat harvest is expected to be back around 2.5m tonnes, at around 34m tonnes, on the back of the extreme weather.

Farmers in Germany are also in trouble, and have sought a €1bn aid package as a result of the searing temperatures.

Joachim Rukwied, head of German farming association DBV, claimed that farmers had lost around 30pc of the harvest due to the continuing drought.

Meanwhile at local level, mills are still working at full capacity as the shortage of grass, particularly in the southeast, continues to bite.

Compounders in the southeast have had to outsource significant tonnages to mills in other parts of the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

Jimmy Brett of Brett Brothers said the grass supply situation across south Leinster and east Munster remained tight.

Dairy farmers were continuing to feed 4-6kgs of rations per day and this was keeping the pressure on feed supplies, he added.

Surveys carried out by the feed company indicated that farmers generally had around 50pc of their silage requirements, although some were in a far worse situation, Mr Brett explained.

"I'd by hopeful that if we get adequate rainfall in the next fortnight that farmers will be able to make up some of that fodder shortfall and the feed companies will supply the difference," he said.

"But farmers badly need to make silage this September. The best case scenario at this stage for the southeast is that we have a silage shortfall of 20-25pc," Mr Brett maintained.

Grass growth across Europe at historic lows: Page 14

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