Farmers selling their cattle early to save them from starving to death
FARMERS are being forced to sell their animals early or let them die of starvation on their farms.
Severe weather in the east has compounded a serious fodder-shortage problem which was already at crisis level due to poor growth and wet conditions.
Although the west has faired better weather-wise, there is no extra hay, silage and straw to be spared in any part of the country.
This is driving up prices and putting untold stress on farm families, farming representatives have claimed.
Figures released by the Department of Agriculture's animal identification and movement system (AIM) reveal that 55,249 cattle died on Irish farms in January and February alone – an increase of 20pc on last year.
At Castleisland Mart in Co Kerry yesterday, any available fodder was sold by early afternoon at a cost of €40 per bail for silage and €25 per bail for hay compared to the usual prices of €25 and €17 respectively.
Stephen O'Keeffe from Scartaglin said farmers were borrowing money to buy feed. "I met a man here today who told me he had to sell two of his cattle first in order to have any money to buy hay and he was crying as he told me," Mr O'Keeffe told the Irish Independent.
Oliver Fleming (70) from Gneeveguilla cannot recall things being so bad before.
"We've a few good cattle for sale here today but a lot of money went into raising them so any increase in price for beef has been eaten up by paying for hay, silage and meal," he said.
Fellow suckler farmer, Donal McCarthy (65) from Kilcummin said grass growth was slack and there was no fodder to spare anywhere.
Mart manager Richard Hartnett sees a definite lack of confidence among farmers. "Calves are being sold from two weeks old because farmers are lacking so much confidence now they just want them out the door," he said.
Looking around at the stock on sale, he said there were a lot of animals that were obviously too thin for their age.