Straw prices almost double as stud farms muscle in on supplies
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-renowned equestrian operations such as Coolmore in Tipperary - which annually harvests one of Ireland's biggest fodder crops for its vast horse operations - are understood to be buying in supplies.
Cereal growers in south Tipperary said dairy and beef farmers, as well as buyers for stud farms, were competing in the fields for available stocks of barley straw.
“I’m just finishing off the last of the winter barley, and there’s a baler ready to go in the field, and two tractors and trailers ready to draw it away,” one local farmer explained.
He said the market for straw in the area was “on fire”, with competition between farmers and buyers for local stud farms driving the market.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will visit west Cork on Friday - and will be personally 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 obtained straw for 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 says the terrible winter and unprecedented summer 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 concerns have already taken action. Dairygold is now offering interest free credit to all its members for purchases of feed and fertiliser throughout July and August in light of the drought and financial pressures being experienced by many producers.
Round bales of hay are selling for €40 in some areas with farmers warning that prices may rise still further if rainfall over the next month doesn't help kick-start grass growth.
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," he said.
"I got hay at €30 per bale but I know other farmers who are being charged €40 per bale - and are being told they can only have so many bales."
Farmers across Ireland were desperately working to get straw and hay to market. Donal and Elizabeth Cott were working hard on their farm at Knockane outside Donoughmore in Cork while Claire Spencer was carefully inspecting her hay yield at Annahala, also in Cork.
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. But Mr Varadkar and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said the situation could dramatically change with rainfall and warm temperatures to promote grass growth.
"There aren't any plans at the moment for any particular response in relation to fodder. But I know it is an issue that is emerging," he said.
Ireland recorded its hottest and driest June in living memory. Rainfall last weekend 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.
Irish Water indicated that measures to protect Ireland's water supply will remain in place until into August. At the height of the heatwave, Ireland came within one degree of shattering a 19th Century record for the hottest temperature ever recorded.
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