By Stephen Cadogan
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has allocated €4.25 million to a new Fodder Import Support measure.
It will reduce the cost to farmers of imported forage (hay, silage, haylage, alfalfa, etc) from outside the island of Ireland. The measure will operate through co-ops and registered importers, to cover forage imported from August 12 to December 31.
The Minister said the beneficiaries will be farmers who need fodder.
“As was the case in the earlier fodder import measure of last spring, participation will be straightforward for the farmer who contacts a participating co-op or registered importer, and purchases fodder. My Department will subsequently reimburse the co-op or importer with a contribution towards the cost of transport.”
Application forms and terms and conditions will shortly be available through co-ops or importers or at www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmerschemespayments/fodderimportsupportmeasureautumn2018/ on the Department’s website.
However, importing fodder from elsewhere in Europe, or getting seeds for catch crops may present problems for Irish farmers, due to the extent of drought across the continent.
DLF Seeds, a leading international supplier, has warned that demand for fast-growing Westerwolds grasses has increased ten-fold this year in the UK, even before demand from farmers in Ireland jumps, due to the announcement by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed of the €2.75m fund to incentivise arable farmers to sow temporary grass leys (must be planted before September 15 to be considered eligible for support). There is likely to be demand right across Europe due to drought difficulties.
Mairead McGuinness, MEP, said the fodder crisis is a European-wide problem that needs to be addressed at European level as well as at national level, and she will be raising the need for a European response, when the European Parliament returns later this month. She said it is the third year in a row of severe drought conditions for many countries.
“The situation is such that we cannot assume that Ireland will readily be able to import sufficient fodder.”
She said the situation points to the need to at least maintain the current EU agriculture budget.
Teagasc advisers said this week that some areas have not received enough rain to recover from the initial drought, and some areas are experiencing a secondary drought. In such areas, average farm cover is estimated at 590 kg of grass dry matter per hectare, daily growth at 29kg, and demand at 32kg. Farmers are advised to reduce demand by increasing feed supplementation, or by culling, to avoid running down the farm grass cover. A dairy farmer with little or no silage reserve can feed 5-6kg of concentrates along with 2-3kg of a high-fibre concentrate per cow per day while building grass for the autumn, and should consider reducing demand by culling empty or poorly performing cows.
If demand is still exceeding the growth rate of the farm, silage must be fed.
A farmer with enough silage could feed 6-7 kg of concentrates per cow per day, and some silage (depends on farm cover and growth rates) and grass while building grass for the autumn.
When growth rates exceed demand, silage supplementation should be reduced before concentrate supplementation, if possible.
All under-performing livestock should be culled, to reduce feed demand.
PastureBase Ireland figures indicate that the worst hit counties are Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Offaly, and Tipperary, all with only 34-46 kg of grass dry matter growth per hectare per day. Elsewhere in Munster, average growth has recovered to 70kg in Clare, 51kg in Cork, 64kg in Kerry, and 66kg in Waterford.
Farmers have been warned of increased pollution risks, because even a small leak or spillage can cause huge damage to the water quality, after dry weather has left low water levels in many rivers and streams.
As a result, the 82% of Irish drinking water supply which comes from surface water sources are more vulnerable than ever to contamination from land and animal run-offs from manure and fertiliser, silage effluent, or pesticides.
Among companies with special measures for farmers under pressure as a result of the extended drought, retailer Iceland has instructed its milk suppliers to pass an extra 2c per litre directly to liquid milk farmers in Ireland. IFA President Joe Healy acknowledged the move, saying the difficult spring and subsequent drought added costs of €5,000-10,000 per month for the average dairy farmer.
On the credit front, the Skibbereen and Bandon Credit Union in Co Cork has added a specific fodder loan of up to €20,000 at 6.99% with deferred repayments until next spring, to its ACRE loan offering.