Fodder shortage eases but it's going to hit us all in the pocket

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The first phase of the fodder crisis is beginning to end.

With air and soil temperatures hitting 18C and 11C respectively over the weekend, grass growth is beginning to motor again.

It's not before time, with at least six months elapsing since we last experienced these kinds of temperatures.

With grass reappearing in the fields, the immediate pressure for emergency fodder supplies will ease from the southern half of the country up.

The next phase of this episode will be to get animals back on track.

We already know that the cost of extra feedstuffs at farm level has ballooned by more than €200m this year.

But it's the hidden cost that may prove the most damaging in the long run.

The huge increase in numbers of under-finished cattle being presented at meat factories has already cost farmers millions.

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The breeding season should be hitting top gear, but all the signs are that there is a huge decline in the number of cows and heifers that are fit for mating.

After a winter of existing on the leftovers, maiden heifers are, in many cases, simply too light for breeding.

Target weights aside, cows that have been under pressure nutritionally since they calved are not cycling normally.

With Teagasc estimating the cost of every missed heat or cycle at €250, we won't be long seeing the costs mount in this area.

The final phase of dealing with 2013's fodder shortage will be to replenish feed stocks for the years ahead.

So it's good to see every possibility being explored by farmers looking to the coming winter.

Everyone in the industry now has a new-found appreciation for the value of a good reserve of fodder in the pit. Now is the time to do something about it.

As farmers pause to look back at the last number of months, some are beginning to question the quality of life their current systems are delivering.

In particular, those who have been pursuing low-cost systems that are pared back to the minimum are beginning to question their sustainability given that they leave so little margin for error.

It's one thing for your income to take a hit due to an unfortunate coincidence of events. But when uncontrollable factors such as weather start to impact on your general well-being and those closest to you, it is time to consider the alternatives.

Irish Independent

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