'We will have to go back to the drawing board on expansion'
Repeated fodder shortages makes culling inevitable, warns Cork farmer
One farmer who has been forced to reduce cow numbers due to a prolonged fodder crisis feels that other farmers must face up to the reality and do the same.
Maurice Walsh who is a dairy farmer outside Mitchelstown in Co Cork, and North Cork ICMSA dairy chair, told the Farming Independent that he cut his dairy herd from 100 to 85 cows in December 2017 due to fodder and weather pressures.
"I had 100 cows and reduced to 85 last Christmas. I culled some and sold some in-calf heifers.
"I was overstocked and in a compact spring calving system. My dad told me to drive on and that I should stick with it but recently he said to me: 'Aren't you glad now you got rid of some of the cows with this drought?'" says Maurice.
Maurice feels that if other farmers followed suit, they would be better able to cope with the extreme weather conditions.
"Farmers are overstocked, but we were told by everyone to drive on, and we did and we expanded.
"We were told that by having more milk that we'd have more money but this is not the case and we'll have to go back to the drawing board on it," he says.
Maurice feels that the fodder shortage figure of 30pc forecast by Dairygold is "a massive underestimation".
"Dairygold have estimated a shortfall of 30pc but this is a massive underestimation of the crisis," he feels.
"Farmers are 50pc behind in fodder stocks for the winter and unfortunately we are being forced to use that now."
Maurice is currently feeding 8kg of concentrates per dairy cow per day, which he says is costing €285 per tonne or €1,435 per week for 85 cows.
"That's a fair whack out of my milk cheque," he says.
"There's a milk base price of 32c per litre but I maintain that we'd be better off if it was 22c per litre and we'd actual grass growing in the fields because production and solids are well down. Protein should be 3.5pc but it's 3pc at the moment. I got my milk cheque in on Friday but we're barely scraping the 30c per litre because our protein is so low," says Maurice.
Maurice was forced to do second cut silage last week as grass growth was collapsing.
He hopes that by spreading slurry now he will be able to cut again in September.
"But that it's all in the hands of the weather gods," he comments. Maurice adds that stakeholders must do more to alleviate the current pressure on farmers.
"For many it's the final nail on the coffin. Farmers don't know where they stand. The need help urgently," he says.
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