Wednesday 16 January 2019

Farmers' mental health is of huge concern - Wexford IFA President

Wexford IFA president James Kehoe
Wexford IFA president James Kehoe

Brendan Keane

The president of Wexford IFA has said dairy farmers in the county will be in 'massive trouble' if there isn't a significant change in the weather over the coming days and if fodder reserves aren't imported into the county.

Speaking to the People Newspaper about the matter on Friday, James Kehoe, said that for some people the fodder crisis is becoming a mental health issue.

'The situation is that serious for many people,' he said.

'I have had numerous calls over the last two days and while some people are asking about fodder sources, for others it's more a matter that they just need to talk to someone,' he added.

'There are a lot of mental health issues going on now and people are under extreme pressure.'

While imports of fodder into the country began last week all of that was destined to go outside of Wexford and Mr Kehoe said that in many cases farmers here are without silage and straw and there are cattle in their yards looking for food.

'Feed is so hard to source at the moment and people who do have it want to hang on to it in case they run out.'

On Thursday night he attended an IFA meeting in Carlow during which the issue was discussed in detail.

'We are calling on the Minister [for Agriculture, Food and the Marine] to make the Fodder Scheme as simple a process as possible,' he said.

'We are also calling for all farm inspections to be suspended until this is over because that will only add to the already high levels of stress that farmers are under.'

He said the organisation is encouraging branch members in Wexford to meet and see if animal feed can be sourced 'neighbour-to-neighbour'.

With regard to imported fodder, he said that's all going out of the county at the moment, to farms in Munster.

'Dairygold began importing fodder last week but that is going through the county down into Munster and we need to begin getting something here into Wexford,' he said.

He said stakeholders in the Model County will have to work together to devise a way of addressing the problem.

Mr Kehoe highlighted the fact that for all livestock farmers the welfare of their stock is of paramount importance and the fact there isn't enough feed is causing widespread stress for owners.

'One of the most fundamentally important things for farmers is caring for their livestock,' he said.

'It's a priority,' he added.

'Farmers always want to have enough food for their animals.'

He said the 'really long and harsh winter' this year has compounded the situation and commented; 'I have never seen the animals eat as much as they have this winter and that's because they needed to sustain their energy because of the cold.'

'It's been going on so long it's incredible,' he added.

'I have never seen as bad a winter as this and I hope I never see one as bad again.'

Even if the weather does turn, for some landowners it could still take as much as three weeks before their land is fit for grazing.

'If the farmer has dry land it could be as little as three or four days before it could be used but for others it could take as long as three weeks.'

Mr. Kehoe is working with Teagasc on the matter and they have a list of people looking for fodder.

'Another factor is that the amount of people who do have a surplus isn't near enough so the demand is far greater than the supply.'

He also encouraged farmers to supplement the feed to their animals with concentrate meal.

'There is no quick fix for the situation and if there isn't an improvement in the weather we will be in massive trouble.'

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