Traffic warning as trucks deliver feed to stricken farms

Motorists are asked to be patient this weekend as agri co-op trucks deliver urgently needed hay and other animal feed to farms nationwide.

Dairygold chairman Bertie O’Leary said: “There is a lot of hay coming into every co-op around the country, so there will be a lot of trucks on the roads this weekend. We have no choice; the cattle have to be fed.

“This situation is creating a ferocious cost to farmers, but it is also bringing out the best in people. Last week, outside one of our branches, I saw one man take a bale off his trailer and give it to another man. We’re seeing things like that all over our area.”

Dairygold is nearing 180 truckloads since the first delivery of British hay arrived last weekend. The co-op is selling the hay at cost. The large 800kg bales are large enough to feed 130 cows, while the medium 640kg bales have enough high fibre content to feed 100 cows a day.

Teagasc is delivering 100 bales of quality silage to Boherbue Co-op. Connacht Gold is importing large volumes of hay from England. Other co-ops throughout the country are doing likewise this weekend.

Glanbia has just unveiled a €1m fund to assist its farmer members. Banks, marts and merchants are all pitching in, either delivering fodder or extending credit facilities.

However, criticism of the Government’s response continues. Some want the €1m transport subsidy scheme to be extended to the transport of local fodder, and not just imports.

The IFA is demanding that the transport subsidy be extended to livestock marts and private merchants, especially those at greater distances from co-ops.

IFA president John Bryan said: “The dairy co-ops have done an excellent job, but they cannot reach everybody who is short of feed. In many areas, the livestock marts and the private merchants play an important role in servicing farmers and we are strongly of the view that the subsided transport scheme must be extended to cover them.”

Teagasc’s silage delivery to Boherbue will be critical for the North Cork co-op, located as it is in an area of predominantly heavy soil. The bales were produced on the Curtin research farm, part of Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy. They are now surplus, given the improvement in grass growth at the centre in the last week.

Kanturk-based Teagasc adviser Noreen O’Rahilly said: “Farmers in this region have been particularly badly affected because of high rainfall.

“Grass growth in the last two weeks has been very slow to pick up on the heavier type soils in this region.”

Connacht Gold’s first trucks of hay from England arrived at its store in Athleague, Co Roscommon yesterday. Further loads, also to be sold at cost price, will reach its other stores in the region over the coming days.

The co-op has also introduced a range of low cost supplementary feeds to help farmers stretch their silage, hay and straw supplies. These feeds will be sold at cost.

Connacht Gold chief executive Aaron Forde said: “We are paying the highest price in the country for manufacturing milk, and this will be of assistance to dairy farmers in alleviating the burden of increased costs.”

Meanwhile, the €1m Glanbia Co-op aid package will fund a rebate of €25 per tonne to all members who received animal feed deliveries from Glanbia Agribusiness from Apr 1 to 27. The rebate is subject to member approval at the society’s AGM in early June.

Glanbia will also propose a 50% increase in the dividend paid to members, from 4% to 6%, raising its 2013 dividend payment by c.€0.9m to €2.7m.

Glanbia Co-Op chairman, Liam Herlihy said: “Glanbia Society members have had the benefit of the share spin-out in March, the value of which at today’s share price is €208m. This has helped to alleviate some of the hardship of our farmer members.”

Glanbia Ingredients Ireland Ltd has also removed any potential penalties under its seasonality scheme.

All fertiliser purchased from Apr 22 to May 25 will be interest-free until Jul 31.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has an emergency phone line for farmers who cannot feed their livestock.

It will be monitored until midnight, seven days a week for the duration of the crisis.

- Lo-call 1850 21 19 90 for help.

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