“With regard to the fodder crisis, there has been a lot of talk recently about starvation in cattle. Well I haven’t seen that,” says Sean Treacy who has been a practicing vet in the Listowel, Co Kerry area for 38 years.
“I would have had a couple of instances where there would have been what I would call welfare issues. Malnutrition problems yes, but not what you would call starvation.
“Starvation of cattle to most right thinking farmers is abhorrent. And they would do everything within their power to prevent such a calamity. As I described to another man recently, a farmer would rather do without food himself, than see his cattle do without it.”
He said that some cattle which have been housed since the weather broke last summer haven’t seen the outside world since.
“Cattle, like ourselves, are not happy with this, they need to see sunshine and see a bit of life. In the human population, there is a type of depression known as SAD, well I believe cattle may be suffering from a similar complaint. The weather we are getting is totally unnatural, and its unnatural for cattle to be inside for that length of time.
“With regards to the shortage of fodder affecting the wellbeing of cattle, I would certainly have noticed an issue arising in the quality of beestings that dairy cows are producing.”
He explained that the beestings (colostrum) is far less beneficial, leaving calves born more prone to diseases and ill health.
“Now over the past 12 months, dairy farmers would have spent a lot of money on vaccines and so on, but this year they might not be reaping the benefits from this, with nutrition not being up to where it should be.”
What effect has the fodder shortage had on farmers? “Well, in some cases, when I’d ramble into a yard, the farmer I feel would be more in need of a therapist than a vet.
“However we get talking, and after a while and a bit of banter things can brighten up again.
“Farmers are a tough breed. They are used to coping with difficulties each and every year.
“The difference here however, is that this year the difficulty experienced seems to be multiplied several times over. Here in Listowel at this time of the year, to see a farmer at five in the morning queuing up for imported hay bales that are needed to feed his cattle is something very bizarre and unnatural.”
“But I really don’t want to be sounding too depressed about the situation. If we are to get through it, we need to be positive.
“If we go around being depressed, we will get nowhere. As I said earlier, farmers are tough by nature, they will fight through this and go on.
“In recent times there has been a lot of talk about the abolition of milk quotas in 2015, and about the planned expansion drive that will be underway once this happens.
“Now I have to wonder, how is all this expansion to happen when at this very moment farmers, at least around this part of the country, cannot produce what they are supposed to be producing?
“I think once this crisis has passed we really need to seriously re-evaluate the planned direction that farming is going.”
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