Teagasc’s 20% winter feed buffer is a ‘hell of a new gospel’

Teagasc sources saying they recommend a 20% winter feed buffer, is “a hell of a new gospel” from the agriculture and food development authority, says John Bryan.

He says a lot of top farmers have got in trouble, even on good land and where they had a fodder reserve 10-15% bigger than best Teagasc advice.

Every IFA county chairman has fodder blackspots, but Bryan suspects that western counties are now suffering worst. Wet land and overstocked farms (including many dairy farms in Munster) will take longer to recover — and sheep have reddened farms, he says.

The other problem is cash flow — which led IFA to ask Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney if farmers could get a cash advance of about €1,000 on autumn direct payments. IFA proposed that Teagasc certify what farmers could qualify, and envisaged that fewer than 20,000 would qualify.

But the minister’s answer was, “We are not a bank,” says Bryan.

IFA also looked for farm inspections to be suspended — and got a promise of “a more understanding attitude by inspectors”.

IFA also want an end to “ridiculous” delays holding up AEOS payments to needy farmers.

It was 12 months ago when the IFA president warned that farmers needed a significant weather improvement to avoid serious winter fodder problems.

Unfortunately, it never came.

IFA knew in October that silage stocks were smaller then required and of poorer quality.

The situation was even worse on farms with very wet land.

Since October, IFA has been playing its part in averting crisis for as long as possible.

Only for livestock farmers spending more on concentrate feeds and straw , the crisis would have struck in January, says Bryan.

He says Kerry was one of the first areas where IFA chairmen reported serious fodder problems, worst in the southern half of the county.

Before Christmas, IFA officers had helped to import fodder from north Kerry first, later from other Munster counties and then from the midlands.

By March, IFA chairmen throughout the western counties were helping to organise fodder imports from Kildare and Wexford.

With frost burning off early grass, fodder was disappearing fast.

“Probably the most amazing thing as fodder started to run out was that the numbers of cattle in the mart didn’t go up, and there was a good steady trade,” says John Bryan.

“Lads have confidence while the mart trade stays firm,” he said.

The resumption of the live trade to North Africa also gave farmers short of feed the opportunity to offload cattle.

But April left more and more farmers out of feed, while rain interfered with grazing.

IFA helped to get emergency assistance through the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council’s system for the worst hit farms.

But eventually, it became essential to source some fodder outside of Ireland, to bridge the gap until grass builds up enough grazing.


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