Kildare farmers have been hit hard by the national fodder crisis brought about by the recent snow storms and cold wet weather.
Kildare and West Wicklow IFA chairman, Brian Rushe said it’s not clear how long fodder supplies will last in the county.
“We had the snow at the end of February. It was a massive massive inconvenience for farmers;then we had the bad snow on St Patrick’s Day, and now we have this (the fodder crisis),” explained the Carbury based farmer, “It’s been a really tough time for farmers.”
He said that because of the cold weather, many farmers actually brought their livestock inside a month earlier than normal last winter. This meant that silage supplies were needed earlier, which had a knock on effect on supplies.
“Farmers are tired and worn out and worried. Many farmers planned in advance and mixed the silage with concentrates such as citrus pulp, beat pulp or oats to make it last longer. My advice to farmers would be to use the concentrates to make the silage last as long as possible,” he said.
“There is help out there for any farmer who needs it. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. I’ve seen groups of farmers coming together to try and organise and source silage and help each other.”
Mr Rushe explained that because of the bad weather, and on going wet conditions, grass hasn’t had a chance to grow. If livestock are put outside, there is a danger possible growth will be further damaged.
He said tillage farmers are also impacted by the weather, causing delays in Spring planting and ultimately hitting potential yields.
Meanwhile, speaking today after meeting with Teagasc and industry representatives, Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed said “We will unfortunately have to import fodder again as occurred in 2013 to supplement existing supplies as the prolonged bad weather conditions continue. I have asked my officials to develop a scheme to support the import of fodder from outside the Island of Ireland”.
The Minister said there is no simple solution and he made it clear it will require a collaborative effort of all stakeholders to support affected farmers to ensure adequate feed supplies are available until livestock can be turned out to graze.
He welcomed the commitment by Teagasc and Co-ops to identify farmers at most risk of running short of feed and support them through individual advisory and fodder budgeting sessions.
“This is a very difficult period for some farmers around the country. Officials from my Department, in conjunction with Teagasc and the Co-ops have been actively monitoring the availability of fodder supplies for purchase by farmers. I am also aware of challenges in the arable sector and have been in touch with Commissioner Hogan in this regard.”
Minister Creed has directed Departmental officials to examine the current Fodder Transport Support measure in order to ensure it adequately addresses all areas experiencing fodder shortages.
This scheme provides support for transport of hay, silage and straw being transported over 100 kilometres.
In addition, the Minister confirmed his officials were actively developing a scheme supporting the importation of fodder from outside the country, the details of which will be worked on in the coming days.
He called on farmers who still have supplies, to continue to make these available to neighbours through local groups, the Co-ops and Teagasc, by means of its recently developed fodder register.
Meetings are being arranged between the Minister and the main banks to discuss steps to alleviate the short-term financial pressures arising for farmers dealing with fodder shortages.
The Department will continue to operate its Early Warning System whereby emergency assistance may be provided to farmers whose animals are experiencing serious welfare issues and where the farmer him/herself is unable to cope.
The Minister also announced an extension to the deadline for submission of Derogation plans by farmers which can now be submitted until April 30.