Fodder prices double in scramble for supplies

Farm leaders call for aid package as winter feed deficit hits 50pc in worst affected counties

Purchasing silage can be a hit and miss affair
Purchasing silage can be a hit and miss affair
Former ICSA president Patrick Kent.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The cost of straw, hay and silage has doubled since the harvest as farmers in the Border counties and north-west struggle to secure fodder supplies.

The delivered charge for wheaten straw has hit €60-65 for 8x4x3 bales, with 4x4 bales making €35-40. These prices are 100pc higher than those available in early September.

The cost of good quality hay has also rocketed, with prices ranging from €38 to €42 for 4x4 bales, depending on the quality.

Supplies of barley straw have dried up and good quality wheaten straw is increasingly difficult to source, feed traders report.

One West of Ireland fodder trader said he was down to just two straw suppliers in the south-east.

"It's just a matter of time to when it [straw] runs out. We are getting the odd load here and there, but the big stocks are nearly gone," he said.

A trader in the Athy region said the demand for feed had intensified over the last fortnight.

He was moving a lot of sugar beet and fodder beet for €40-50/t depending on whether it was collected or delivered.

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"I put a fodder advert in the paper but I got so many calls that I had to knock the phone off," he said.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has called on the Government to acknowledge the extent of the impending fodder crisis.

"Farmers need financial help particularly to offset the cost of transport of fodder over long distances.

"Previously the Government succeeded in getting funds from the European Solidarity programme and this needs to be examined again.

"However, [the] ICSA believes that the Government needs to put a strategy in place immediately to deal with the fodder crisis."

The association said the cost of transporting fodder to the worst affected area in the north-west should be covered by the Government.

"There is no surplus fodder in the badly affected areas and fodder is not plentiful anywhere in Ireland," said Mr Kent.

Transport costs

"At best, we are looking at transport over long distances from parts of Leinster and Munster to the west and border regions. At worst, we may have to contemplate imports from the UK. Either way, transport costs are onerous and farmers need support," said Mr Kent.

Farmers should access Teagasc assistance on stretching fodder by the use of straights such as rolled barley or soya hulls, the ICSA leader said.

Mr Kent added that the emerging crisis highlighted the need for a profitable Irish tillage industry to provide sufficient supplies of straw, cereals, maize, and protein crops.

The IFA has called for an aid package, including additional ANC funds, for those farmers in difficulty.

IFA spokesman Gerry Gunning said it had asked Teagasc to help identify the worst-hit areas and individual farmers particularly at risk.

"If you go back to 2013 there was a transport subsidy to move fodder around the country," he said, adding another key part of an aid package could be a feed voucher scheme.

He warned some of the fodder gathered in recent months was of extremely poor quality.

"There was some good quality fodder gathered in May/June/July," he said, but that was being fast used up.

"I think we are heading into an impending fodder problem. Some have it now and some will have it in two to three months time."

The IFA in Leitrim and North Tipperary have established a fodder bank for affected farmers and appealed for those with fodder available to contact them.

The extent of fodder crisis in the northwest was highlighted by a Lakeland Dairies survey which identified fodder deficits of between 10pc and 50pc of requirements.

The worst affected areas included west Cavan, Leitrim, north Monaghan, Fermanagh and west Tyrone.

Aurivo is holding advice clincs across the north-west to help farmers predict fodder needs and identify potential shortages, while the IFA will hold a rally in Claremorris, Co Mayo on Friday, December 1, to highlight the difficulties facing farmers.

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