Farm Ireland

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Farmers facing fodder crisis 'double whammy'

Costs surge and milk collections slump as dairy bosses warn that further milk price cuts are likely

Martin Sexton (left), from Lakeland Agri, with farmer Gerard Reilly as fodder was delivered to his farm in Virginia, Co Cavan
Martin Sexton (left), from Lakeland Agri, with farmer Gerard Reilly as fodder was delivered to his farm in Virginia, Co Cavan
Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Farmers are facing a 'double whammy' from weather woes as costs surge due to fodder bills while milk collections slump.

Demand has been reported as strong amongst dairy and drystock farmers for the thousands of tonnes of hay, haylage, maize and alfalfa that has been imported in the last week.

Farm leaders have called for a hardship fund and meal voucher scheme following a meeting in the north-west where some farmers have been buying in fodder for several months.

"There were a lot of hardship cases and they don't have the funds to buy more fodder," said the IFA's Padraic Joyce following the meeting in Roscommon.

"There are some farmers selling stock while others in the Knowledge Transfer scheme can't sell any more stock.

"Those farmers along the west coast and the north-west have been buying fodder now for six months and it is at a critical point," added Mr Joyce.

"There are farmers selling their animals to feed what remains on the farm."

And dairy bosses have warned that further milk price cuts are inevitable due to weakening global demand.

However, there is some respite on the horizon with Met Eireann forecasting that temperatures will rise to 10 to 14C this week, while rainfall is due to dip below average in areas.

However, Teagasc's Dr Siobhan Kavanagh urged farmers to continue supplementing silage supplies with extra feed over the next three weeks as grass growth remains up to 50pc below normal.

The Teagasc phone helpline (087 7971377 ) will continue to be manned this week.

Over 213 farmers with silage to sell and over 500 seeking supplies have registered with Teagasc.

Milk collections

Dairygold's Jim Woulfe said it was clear that the coming days would continue to prove challenging for farmers.

"Ground conditions are soggy, animals are in and they are in peak production now and should be headed for grass," he said.

"They need to be on a good plane of nutrition, three or four weeks before they go back in calf again and the breeding season is coming in again."

Milk collections have taken a hit in the south and east of the country, while protein levels have also slumped.

"We are seeing weekly supplies back between five and six per cent on last year," said Mr Woulfe.

Glanbia collections were back by 5pc during the month of March when collections were expected to be up 6pc due to expanding herds.

Kerry Group collections were back 4pc in March, while the first week of April was down 10pc on the same week in 2017.

In Tipperary, Arrabawn Co-op collections were back 7-8pc.

However, the trend was bucked in the north-west where Aurivo's collections were up 8pc for March, although this slowed to a 2.5pc increase in the first days of April.

Lakeland Dairies collections were up 1-2pc. LacPatrick were up 6pc on the same month last year but saw collections for the start of April drop back to last year's levels.

Minister Michael Creed will brief the Cabinet tomorrow on the fodder situation. The Department says the €1.5m import measure will support up to 20,000 tonnes of fodder being brought in. Planning is also underway to deliver the balancing payments under certain Pillar II schemes in the next month. These include the Sheep Welfare Scheme followed by the GLAS scheme in mid-May.

Meanwhile, IFA dairy chair Tom Phelan said Teagasc estimates put the reduced profitability for each day that cows are not grazing at between €2.20 and €3.00 per cow.

Continued on page 9

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