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Caught out by bad weather and the high cost of fodder

WHY is there a fodder crisis? Despite warnings last autumn, the severity of the current fodder crisis has caught even the most seasoned farmers and advisers off-guard.

Poor weather, high-feed prices and tightening credit-lines have all combined to leave some farmers high and dry.

Record rainfall last summer prevented farmers from getting a good crop of silage made.

Such was the volume of rain that many farmers ended up housing their stock almost full-time.

This forced them to start feeding the cattle silage much earlier than usual.

The advice from state agencies was to stretch out limited fodder reserves by feeding more straw and cereal-based concentrates.

Farmers tried to avoid this as concentrates cost about four times more than silage.

Over the course of the winter, feed prices have increased by about 20pc.

By now the vast majority of Ireland's seven million cattle herd should be out grazing on lush pastures.

Soil temperatures need to rise above 6C before grass begins to grow. But the coldest March on record put paid to any hope of that happening.

And Met Eireann is predicting another dip in temperatures for the weekend.

Irish Independent