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Saturday 21 July 2018

Farmers say Agriculture Minister in denial over extent of fodder crisis

Hereford cattle belonging to farmer Philip Maguire are seen in Enniskerry, Ireland November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Hereford cattle belonging to farmer Philip Maguire are seen in Enniskerry, Ireland November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Irish Farmers Association has it out at Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed’s responce to growing fodder shortage nationwide.

He claimed comments from the Minister that it is every farmer’s individual responsibility to resolve their fodder difficulties indicates a Minister who is in denial of the serious situation that now exists on farms across the country.

He said the fodder crisis, which has been evident in the north-west for months, has now spread to many other parts of the country where grass growth has come to a standstill and fodder supplies are being depleted.

“The response to date of a fodder transport subsidy has not worked. Very few farmers have applied, given the complex bureaucracy attached to the scheme.

“Fodder supplies had been available in the southern half of the country but these are now gone, and the only option for the Minister at this point is a meal voucher scheme to support farmers to feed their stock.

“At this critical moment, the Minister should show solidarity with those farmers who have difficulties and help them through this period,” Joe Healy concluded.

There is mounting concern over the potential fodder shortages, with many parts of the south and south-east now feeling the pinch.

Soil conditions and continuing poor grass growth has prevented farmers from letting stock back out to the fields.

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With many farmers running low on fodder, farm advisors have warned that the situation could escalate into a serious fodder crisis unless the weather improves.

Kilkenny-based Teagasc advisor Terry Carroll said that a fodder survey had not been undertaken in the south-east but anecdotal evidence suggested that the farmers were running tight on fodder.

"Another two weeks of feeding would have people very tight," Mr Carroll said.

He said poor ground conditions in the south-east meant that farmers were unable to get stock out on grass.

Baled silage in the south is moving for between €25 and €28 per bale, however, Teagasc is advising farmers to feed increased meal where possible because of the variable quality of the silage on offer in some areas.

Dairy consultant Mary Kinston said grass growth in north Kerry was generally running at 50pc of the normal levels.

Growth rates of 10kg/ha/day are currently being recorded in the south-west, but rates of 25kg/ha/day would be closer to normal.

Low soil temperatures are continuing to restrict grass growth. Ms Kinston said if temperatures were to rise to 8°C, every subsequent jump of 1°C would add 14kg/ha/day to grass growth levels.

However, grazing grounds also needs to dry out, with growth levels taking a major hit on saturated soils.

Supplements

Philip Creighton in Teagasc Athenry said the average soil temperature for March was 4.5°C, compared with temperatures normally around 7° or 8°C.

"It means growth has been severely handicapped for us. Growth measured this week at 6kgDM/ha a day, normally we'd be looking at that being up 15kg to 20kg for this week of the year. It's at least 50pc behind and when we put that into implications wise we have about 15 days of grass ahead of us when we should be up around 25.

"We are having to supplement ewes with a kilo of concentrates per ewe per day," he said. "It is tough going on people and people are under pressure."

However, he urged farmers to still ensure they are ready to go out with fertiliser as soon as temperatures are on the rise and soil is trafficable.

Testing has shown temperatures in recent days have risen to around 6°C, however, a further cold spell is forecast for this Easter weekend.

Temperatures are predicted to fall back as low as zero on Saturday and could remain in low single digits until well into next week.

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