Hay and straw prices rocket as 'horror' drought hits farmers hard

Farmer Claire Spencer with bales of hay on her family farm in Annahala, Co Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney
Farmer Claire Spencer with bales of hay on her family farm in Annahala, Co Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney

Ralph Riegel

Hay and straw prices have almost doubled as livestock farmers warned it could take Ireland 18 months to recover from the miserable winter followed by the record-breaking summer drought

Livestock farmers and stud operations are now desperately competing for available hay and straw supplies, with the Government “carefully monitoring” the situation, given the potential demand for a second fodder intervention in just four months.

Even world-renownedequestrian operations arebuying in fodder supplies.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been briefed on the escalating problems facing livestock farmers due to the heatwave, drought and feared fodder shortages.

Straw bales (4x4) are now fetching €30 each – a near doubling of the €17 price many farmers had shelled out for straw in 2017.

It is estimated that straw yields are now back by around 40pc nationwide.

Ireland traditionally produces around 7.5 million bales (4x4) of straw, but there are fears it could drop to 5.25 million bales this season.

The south-east, which traditionally produces hay and straw for other areas, is now expecting yields to plummet.

“If some of the horror stories are to be believed, not a bale will leave places like Wexford because of local need,” one Cork farmer said.

Waterford IFA chairman Kevin Kiersey said the terrible winter and unprecedented drought is causing serious

problems for many farmers.

“The problems are going to become very apparent in the coming months,” he said.

Major agri-food players have already taken action, with Dairygold offering interest-free credit to all its members for purchases of feed and fertiliser throughout July and August.

Round bales of hay are selling for €40 in some areas, with farmers warning that prices may rise further.

Cork farmer Jimmy Donoghue said his entire fodder stock was wiped out by Ireland’s miserable winter and spring.

“I reckon I am back around 100 bales on where I was this time last year. I got hay at €30 per bale but I know other farmers who are being charged €40 and more per bale,” he said.

Farmers across Ireland are desperately working to get straw and hay saved.

Donal and Elizabeth Cott were working hard on their farm at Knockane outside Donoughmore, Co Cork, while Claire Spencer was carefully inspecting her hay yield at Annahala, also in Cork.

Mr Cott said: “It has been a really challenging year with a long winter, a wet spring and now a summer drought. What every farmer needs now is rain.”

Mr Varadkar has promised the Government will “not be found wanting” if the drought continues and the multi-billion Euro agri-food sector faces a potential fodder crisis.

Ireland recorded its hottest and driest June in living memory. Rainfall last week was the first seen by some parts of

Ireland since June 21.

Experts warned, however, that another two to four weeks of good rainfall is required to tackle parched farmland and replenish Irish streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

Online Editors