Friday 14 December 2018

Farmers keep one eye on fodder and the other on the weather

Farmers badly need 10 days of good weather before growth can take place. Maria Herlihy reports

Eileen Kelleher and Rachel McCarthy of Dairygold Co-Op Ballymakeera pictured with an emergency fodder delivery from the UK. Photo Daragh McSweeney
Eileen Kelleher and Rachel McCarthy of Dairygold Co-Op Ballymakeera pictured with an emergency fodder delivery from the UK. Photo Daragh McSweeney
Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine Michael Creed speaks with a delighted Banteer farmer Tony Dunlea, at the Dairygold Branch in Millstreet where food was distributed to local farmers for their cattle which had been shipped in from the UK due to the shortage crisis after recent inclement weather. Photo by John Delea

Farmers in Duhallow need at least 10 days of good weather so their land can dry out and the grass that is desperately needed to feed cattle can begin to grow.

Boherbue Co-Operative CEO Declan O'Keeffe said: "For us, it is not a crisis yet in this area, but it is getting more critical as time goes on. It will be at least two weeks really before it is solved with the weather.

"Even if it stops raining and there is growth, you are talking about a week to 10 days, but as I said it is not a crisis so far."

Mr O'Keeffe told The Corkman they had brought in hay and silage from abroad and are also bringing in silage from the eastern part of the country to alleviate local fodder shortages.

"We imported hay from the UK and Holland and we also had some loads of silage ourselves. We were getting 30 bales in a load and we were getting two loads per day. We also had a pit of silage locally. We are managing day by day and are coping well here at the moment but an awful lot hinges on the weather," said Mr O'Keeffe.

The weather needs to improve for seven to 10 days before farmers will begin to see grass growth. Until that happens their animals will remain dependent on whatever stocks of fodder are left. And they are running perilously low.

In what amounts to an almost ominous warning, Declan O'Keeffe emphasises the point: "For now, we are managing well but we may well have to scale up if the weather does not improve.

Liam Murphy, who is the Dairygold Manager at Millstreet told The Corkman that they are getting a delivery of between 33 and 40 bales per day, but these are all gone.

"Farmers are under pressure and with the weather forecast being bad again for the weekend it will not help matters. Farmers are feeling the pressure because the bottom line is that they can't let their cows out. Everything now is very much dependant on the weather. What we are doing here in Millstreet is trying to make sure that everyone is okay at the end of the day and that they have feed for their cattle," he said.

Mr Murphy said like so many more in Duhallow, they are keeping one eye on their fodder stock and one eye on the weather.

"Farmers would need a good 10 days of good weather before any growth can be seen. At this stage, they really need that. But for us here in Millstreet, what we are doing is making sure that farmers are looked after," he said. Meanwhile, IFA President Joe Healy said Minister Michael Creed needs to allocate a dedicated budget to farmers to help them through the "fodder crisis".

Mr Healy said Minister Creed needs to make a significant fund available towards an Early Warning System that operates locally to help farmers before any welfare problems emerge.

Minister Creed last week said his department estimated they had in the region of three weeks' fodder available.

"If we didn't get an increase in soil temperature now, it's likely that in three weeks' time we would have additional demand for fodder. What we are looking at now, based on soil temperature, grass growth, we are at about a third of grass growth now in comparison to what we were at this time last year," he said.

Minister Creed said he does understand the "frustration" of farmers, who at this time of the year, normally would have cattle out on grass.

"And particularly farmers in the south and east who would have expected a much earlier spring. A lot of farmers would anticipate and budget for having cattle out on grass in late February; so I understand the frustration," he said.