First moves to import fodder as farmers face critical shortage

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Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Dairygold has confirmed that is has organised for the importation of over 2,500 tonnes of fodder (haylage and hay) from the UK with the first loads due to arrive in Ireland tomorrow.

The Society said that the imported fodder was essential to alleviate the current shortage of fodder for Irish farmers who are struggling with a long winter followed by the unseasonably cold and wet spring which has significantly delayed grass growth.

Additional shipments are due daily right through the weekend and into next week.

The fodder will be distributed to Dairygold’s farmers via the branch network across the Munster catchment region. Dairygold is advising Members who have fodder difficulties to contact their Dairygold Area Sales Manager or Milk Advisors so that the distribution of fodder can be effectively coordinated to support those in most urgent need of fodder.

It also said that the cost of fodder to its Members will be at cost price at source in the UK.

Dairygold had already been working with Members over the last 10 days to source fodder from locations around Ireland until it wasn’t possible to source adequate supplies within Ireland.

The situation became more acute over the Easter weekend when an emergency contingency plan was put in place.

Dairygold Chairman John O'Gorman explained said there has been a definite tightening of fodder stocks especially in the last week.

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"The heavy rain across the country over the Easter weekend compounded an already bad situation on the ground for dairy farmers following one of the worst winters on record. Instead of having animals out at grass our Members are still dealing with housed animals and all the feeding requirements that involves.

"We have no doubt that this imported fodder is essential. Unfortunately, ground temperatures and grass growth remain well below normal for this time of year so at this point in time it’s difficult to know when dairy farmers will be in a position to return to grazing. This period between the calving and the breeding season is a critical time for animal health and nutrition.

“This is a very costly operation and we will be making this point to the Department and recommending that it initiates its haulage support programme that worked so well to assist in industry during the last fodder crisis in 2013.”  

The Irish dairy sector last experienced a fodder crisis five years ago in April 2013. Then Dairygold imported over 10,000 tonnes of fodder from the UK and France to alleviate a critical shortage on Members’ Farms.

LacPatrick Dairies has moved to help suppliers affected by the extended winter conditions.

Over the weekend, LacPatrick called a meeting of its emergency response team to put in place a robust plan to help suppliers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The following actions have been put in place:

  • Silage matchmaking service – Although the fodder situation is critical on many farms, there may be other farms where there are ample fodder supplies. LacPatrick has contacted suppliers asking for those with silage reserves as well as those running low to get in contact. LacPatrick is compiling a database of those farmers and will put those with fodder in contact with those who do not. There has already been a strong uptake on this.
  • Fodder workshop – LacPatrick is holding a workshop to advise on options to address fodder shortages. This will be held in the Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan on Thursday 5 April at 8pm.
  • Maize support – LacPatrick has secured a large volume (4,000t) of maize silage which is being offered to suppliers. A number of suppliers have already taken up this opportunity.

Meanwhile, almost 80pc more rain fell in some parts of the country over the first three months of the year compared with the corresponding period of 2017, Met Éireann data shows.

Just over 250mm of rain fell at Dublin Airport between January and April 2, up 77.8pc, with increases of more than 50pc recorded at stations in Johnstown, Co Wexford; Ballyhaise, Co Cavan; and Dunsany, in Meath.

The data comes as president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Joe Healy warned that the land was far too wet to graze, exacerbating fears of a major fodder shortage.

He said figures from weather stations on Teagasc land showed that in some areas, four times as much rain fell in January compared with the same month of 2017.

“We’ve had two very wet months since and it has been compounded by snowfall,” he said, adding that rainfall in Athenry increased to 173mm in January, compared to 47mm in the same month last year.

“It was similar at all the other stations,” he said, warning it was causing major difficulties for farmers as they deal with sodden land and no grass growth.

Met Éireann records show that of the 25 weather stations across the State, rainfall levels rose by more than 5pc in 22 of them over the first three months of the year. In two – Mace Head and Valentia – rainfall remained largely the same, and it dropped in Moore Park by 13.6pc.

The Met Éireann weather report for the winter said rainfall was above average, while it was also the coldest winter since 2011 in many places. A spokesman for Teagasc said the increased rainfall and snow, coupled with low temperatures, meant that grass was not growing at the level necessary.

Met Éireann is predicting unsettled weather over the coming days. Today will see outbreaks of rain, with a wet and windy night forecast for tomorrow, with a risk of spot flooding in places from Friday, and rain forecast across the weekend.

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