Arctic chill pushes farmers to the brink as finances tighten
Cattle deaths up 20pc, milk proteins dive and fodder prices rise further
Financial pressure on many farms is reaching breaking point as farmers struggle to deal with a triple whammy of fodder shortages, mounting feed bills and near Arctic weather conditions.
Heavy rain and snow and sub-zeros temperatures have forced farmers to re-house stock right across the country, while grass growth has fallen to just a fraction of normal levels.
The developing crisis has been reflected in the marts, where prices for plain store bullocks slumped by €50-100/hd in the past fortnight as cattle entries have surged but grass-starved buyers hold off purchasing, despite strong factory prices.
Cattle deaths have also increased sharply. The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture's Animal Identification and Movement System (AIMS) show a 20pc rise in cattle deaths for the first two months of the year. The latest AIMS data shows that almost 8,800 more animals died in January and February this year, compared to the same period last year.
Some 55,247 cattle died on farms in January and February 2013, compared to 46,455 in 2012. Young cattle aged between six weeks and 24 months old and older animals, mainly cows, have taken the biggest hit.
Total losses during January/February of stock aged between six weeks and 24 months rose from 9,050 animals in 2012 to 12,991 in 2013 – an increase of close to 3,900hd.
The number of animals lost aged over 48 months was also well up, going from 9,654hd in 2012 to 15,622 in 2013 – an increase of almost 6,000hd.
However, calf deaths were down. Some 21,754 calves aged up to six weeks died in January-February this year, compared to 24,097 calves in the same period last year.