'You can see the despair on the farmers' faces at the marts' - This Leitrim farmer has cattle indoors since August
The fodder crisis is hitting hard in Leitrim as dairy farmer Joe Devine can testify. His animals have been in and out of the sheds since last August and face another month of weather-related misery before any sort of normality returns.
"We are in despair about this weather and you can see it on the faces of the farmers you meet at the marts," says Joe (48) who farms on the Mohill side of Carrick-on-Shannon. "They are just praying for springtime weather.
"All of us have been housing our animals on and off since last autumn and have been feeding them supplements to preserve what little fodder we have left.
"We can't get out into the fields with the animals and it is going to take another month before the land dries out and things return to normal. And then we will have the knock-on effects in terms of the first cut for 2018," Joe explains.
He is unimpressed with the response from the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to the crisis. "It was only when the fodder shortages became apparent down south and in the east that he moved on it."
Joe is married to Rosie, a secondary school teacher in nearby Longford, and they have one child, Isabelle (8). Rosie is from a non farming background, which Joe says is lucky "because otherwise she would never have married me".
He took over the family farm 20 years ago and built up the dairy herd from around 28 head to its current level of 70 pedigree Holstein- Friesians. He regards himself as one of the "nearly extinct" dairy farmers in Leitrim.
After finishing school, Joe went to the Ballyhaise Agricultural College in Cavan and then spent three years expanding his dairy knowledge at tutor farms in Meath, Cork and Monaghan before coming home to take over the family's 120ac holding. He describes the land as wet and peaty.