Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 25 May 2018

Winter fodder crisis has already hit north-west

90pc of farmers in region face serious shortages while rest of country braces for further deficits

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Theresa Murphy

Over 90pc of farmers in the north-west are facing serious fodder shortages this winter, with stock owners generally having 35pc less feed than they will need for their herds.

These are the stark findings of a Teagasc fodder survey which involved more than 90 farmers from Leitrim and Sligo.

It comes as the farm organisations again demanded action from the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed this week to support farmers hit by the fodder crisis.

While the survey found that a small number of farmers had sufficient feed to see them through the winter, there were also exceptional cases where farmers had already used all their fodder stocks, Tom Coll of Teagasc explained.

However, he said most farmers were faced with feed shortages of around one-third of their normal winter requirements.

The Teagasc survey confirms the extent of the difficulties facing farmers in the west and north-west.

At an IFA meeting in Claremorris, Co Mayo on Friday evening, association president Joe Healy called on Minister Creed to immediately introduce a fodder transport subsidy and meal vouchers for farmers who have been hardest hit by the crisis.

"There is no doubt that there is an urgent need for a support scheme," Mr Healy said.

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"Minister Creed should get on with it and introduce a support scheme immediately. Farmers are under extreme pressure because of the challenges facing them and they expect a strong response from the Minister and the Government," he added.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) national president Colm O'Donnell has also called on Minister Creed to put a fodder aid package in place as quickly as possible, as he stressed it was already a crisis.

"With cattle housed since late August, many farmers are going to have all their fodder used by Christmas; which means that now is the time for action," Mr O'Donnell said.

Monitoring

In a letter read out by former Senator Michael Comiskey, Minister Creed (pictured) stated officials in his Department, along with Teagasc were closely monitoring the winter fodder situation, with Teagasc providing advice on addressing the issues where stocks are going to fall short.

In a letter to the meetings he acknowledged the fodder scarcities in the north-west, and pointed out that it was "important to stress to any farmer with acute problems with fodder supplies" and animal welfare concerns to contact the Department's Animal Welfare helpline. Mr Creed pointed out the increase in basic payment scheme payouts had seen one billion euro issued to Irish farmers in recent weeks.

Mr Comiskey said the minister was fully committed and intends to work with farmers to ensure there is a solution to the problems.

Liam McKenny, a Donegal-based agri-consultant, urged farmers to only buy silage if they know the quality, adding some should look at feeding nuts to fill the gap.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture, Charlie McConalogue said time was moving swiftly on and prices of fodder were rising as people are aware there is a "fodder shortage".

Many farmers at the INHFA meeting raised concerns that with a longer housing period, difficulties would arise with spreading slurry before long.

"We have a real crisis, it is not in January that the crisis will come, it has arrived already in some parts," said Brendan Joyce of the INHFA.


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