The Government has been urged to hold an emergency meeting to help farmers struggling with an extensive fodder crisis which, farm groups say, is threatening human as well as animal health.
The IFA said the meeting is needed to address a fodder crisis that has expanded from an issue primarily affecting those in the west and northwest of the country to a national problem.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, IFA president Joe Healy said the lack of grass growth caused by huge rainfall and low temperatures, had meant a winter season that extended all the way back to September for some farmers: “It’s a nationwide problem at the moment and it’s really very serious.”
While efforts to provide fodder for animals to stricken areas have proved successful, recent heavy snowfall and continuous wet and cold weather meant below-average growth at a time of year when animals would traditionally go back out on grass. This also meant farm finances, already stretched, are now at breaking point thanks to the rising cost and — in some cases — scarcity of feed.
Teagasc said it has set up a Forage Register to help farmers who have run out of silage and other fodder to source supplies from those with a surplus. Farmers who have silage they can sell are invited to ring their Teagasc office to get it listed on the register. Teagasc will then text all clients asking them to register any supplies of fodder they may have on regional fodder registers. Teagasc will also make the list available to farmers in the market for forage.
Charlie McConalogue, Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture, said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has “lost touch” with hard-pressed farmers:
Independent TD Mattie McGrath said that, while he accepts that the minister does not want to interfere in local fodder market supply, “he must offer firm guarantees that everything that can be done will be done to ensure that fodder is available in adequate amounts to farmers who are struggling under the wet and cold weather conditions”.
After a recent meeting to review the situation, Dermot McCarthy, head of the Teagasc advisory service, said: “It is important to act now and complete a feed budget which will indicate how much silage can be fed on a daily basis to stock to stretch the feed and how the balance of requirements can be met from grass and supplements. On balance, most people need to be feeding more meals to fill the gap.”
Cindy O’Shea, regional director with Samaritans Ireland, said farmers could be suffering personally as a result of the impact of the bad weather: “ Our volunteers can be contacted on Samaritans’ freephone helpline on 116 123, by text on 087 2 60 90 90, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org People are also welcome to visit our branches across the country if they’d prefer to speak face to face with someone.”