Huge concerns as farmers face 'perfect storm'
The fodder crisis continued across the country and indeed throughout County Wicklow this week, with many farmers at their wits' end at the prospect of running out of animal feed and bedding.
In Manor Kilbride, county councillor and farmer Jim Ruttle said that he has about two weeks of silage left in stock.
'We have about two week's worth left, maybe less,' he said. 'Many factors have contributed to the perfect storm and, while it is understood that the imported fodder will be available to all who need it and not just the dairy sector, there are huge concerns.'
Cllr Ruttle said that while the fodder crisis is the most pressing of issues, farmers are also concerned about the lack of grass growth which will have repercussions later this year and into next year.
'Last autumn, farmers had trouble getting the bales out and therefore they had less hay and silage. At this time of the year, the grass should be hopping out of the ground but it's not. Grass needs an ambient temperature of around eight degrees but we haven't experienced that and the cold and wet have just stopped the growth. Usually, we would have a first cut in late May and if this doesn't happen it impacts negatively on the second cut as well so, looking ahead, we are already concerned at future stocks,' he said.
According to Cllr Ruttle, 2,500 tonnes of silage have been imported so far, compared with 114,000 tonnes during the last fodder crisis in 2013 - so much more will be still required.
'We are going through much more bedding as we have had the cattle in the shed since last October. Usually we would be able to put them out in March but we couldn't this year. When stocks are low, farmers end up rationing, which they do not want to do. This creates a lot of concern about the welfare of their animals.'
Cllr Ruttle said that if this was to be the situation every year going forward, farmers will have to look at another way of doing things so that they are not left in such a vulnerable position in the future.