Fodder crisis sees cows starve to death

Cattle are dying of starvation and farmers under increasing strain because of the shortage of animal feed after months of unrelenting rainfall.

The IFA, ICMSA, and ICSA have called for an urgent Government response.

“Our offices are inundated with calls,” said Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan. “People are finding cattle dead or dying, and in a ravenous state at a time of year when feed should not be an issue. Farmers on good ground, who’d usually have cattle out from mid-March, can’t get them out this year.

Cork, Limerick, Clare, and Kerry have no fodder. They brought fodder from Northern Ireland into Mallow for €50 a bale. Boherbue Co-Op bought 50 or 60 acres of silage last weekend, giving their farmers five or six days’ grace. That’s about €14,000 worth of silage, which they’re selling for €35 a tonne as they’re not passing on the transport costs.”

The problem is escalating for Sean O’Riordan of Kiskeam, Co Cork. His “monitor farm” gathers data such as rainfall. He saw 1,833ml of rain from Jan to Dec 2012, of which 600ml fell from June to August. Normal annual rainfall is from 750 to 1,000ml.

Mr O’Riordan’s 2012 grass was two thirds of normal output. Pasture did not get a chance to grow last summer, and he has been playing catch-up ever since, with his cattle indoors full time during the winter.

“It is a costly battle to buy in all this meal and purchase fodder,” he said. “There’s grass out there in front of the cows, but I can’t let them out. The ground isn’t trafficable. We’d need at least a week of consecutive dry days.”

His cows are only allowed out three hours a day. As a result, they only get 7kg of grass each. They would usually be 100% grass-fed in spring. Instead, they are also being fed 7kg of meal and 4kg of silage per head. “I haven’t got my head around what this is costing me,” said Mr O’Riordan.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he was acutely aware of the difficulties experienced by some farmers due to the weather.

“I am speaking to banks and insisting they take a flexible approach to dealing with short-term credit issues,” he said. “I have also been in contact with co-ops and grain and feed merchants to urge them to be flexible. I appreciate farmers are under financial pressure, however the outlook for our livestock sectors remains positive and prices are relatively strong.”

Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture Éamon Ó Cuiv said the Oireachtas committee on agriculture should change its agenda today to discuss the fodder crisis.


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