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Friday 22 June 2018

Explainer: What is the fodder crisis and who does it affect?

Stocking up on fodder outside the Drumshanbo Horse Fair, Co Leitrim. Photo Brian Farrell
Stocking up on fodder outside the Drumshanbo Horse Fair, Co Leitrim. Photo Brian Farrell
FarmIreland Team

FarmIreland Team

Farmers face paying huge costs to import feed supplies from abroad for their animals amid an escalating fodder crisis.

The fodder crisis has emerged as farmers begin to run out of feed - such as silage - for their cattle. This has happened as the weather last summer, when farmers make silage, was not good enough to make as much silage as they would like, particularly in western areas.

Coupled with this, the winter has been very long for farmers and they have had to keep cattle indoors for longer than usual, and are therefore more reliant on silage stocks. So many farmers are now looking at having to buy extra feed for their cattle. But because there is a fodder shortage across most of the country now, Ireland is looking at importing fodder from abroad.

Grass not growing

Most years farmers would be able to let their cattle and sheep out to grass, but Teagasc has said the increased rainfall and snow, coupled with low temperatures, meant that grass was not growing at the level necessary.

Almost 80pc more rain fell in some parts of the country over the first three months of the year compared with the corresponding period of 2017, Met Éireann data shows.

Just over 250mm of rain fell at Dublin Airport between January and April 2, up 77.8pc, with increases of more than 50pc recorded at stations in Johnstown, Co Wexford; Ballyhaise, Co Cavan; and Dunsany, in Meath.

Figures from weather stations on Teagasc land showed that in some areas, four times as much rain fell in January compared with the same month of 2017.

Met Éireann records show that of the 25 weather stations across the State, rainfall levels rose by more than 5pc in 22 of them over the first three months of the year. In two – Mace Head and Valentia – rainfall remained largely the same, and it dropped in Moore Park by 13.6pc.

The Met Éireann weather report for the winter said rainfall was above average, while it was also the coldest winter since 2011 in many places.

Some farmers’ livestock indoors for 8 months

The situation which many are now dubbing a crisis similar to that seen in 2013 has seen prices for feed and fodder skyrocket in recent months.

The north west of the country has been particularly badly affected with the issue of poor spring weather compounded by the extremely we autumn in 2017 which has seen livestock hosed I’m many parts for over eight months.

However experts have now warned that fodder shortages are now widespread in all regions with many large dairy farmers who would normally have cattle at grass at this point now facing acute fodder shortages.

What is the current fodder situation?

Farmers and feed traders report a definite tightening in fodder supplies across the east and south-east of the country.

The supply of silage, hay and straw for sale has totally dried up in Leinster and east Munster over the past 10 days, say fodder traders.

There are increasing concerns that the shutting down of fodder supplies in the east could worsen feed shortages being experienced in the west.

With poor grass growth pushing the winter-feeding period into April, there are fears that severe fodder shortages could now hit highly stocked dairy farmers across south Leinster and Munster as silage pits empty.

Many major operators have warned they have just two weeks left of sufficient fodder supplies.

Who is importing fodder?

Dairygold has confirmed that is has organised for the importation of over 2,500 tonnes of fodder (haylage and hay) from the UK with the first loads due to arrive in Ireland tomorrow.

The Society said that the imported fodder was essential to alleviate the current shortage of fodder for Irish farmers who are struggling with a long winter followed by the unseasonably cold and wet spring which has significantly delayed grass growth.

Additional shipments are due daily right through the weekend and into next week.

What are the authorities doing?

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said a meeting of key officials, farm body Teagasc and the main agri co-ops taking place today, would look at a co-ordinated approach including potentially importing fodder from abroad.

A forage register to connect feed buyers and sellers is being established by Teagasc.

The register will help farmers who have run out of fodder to source silage and other feed supplies from those with surplus stocks.

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