The Agriculture Minister has been accused by farm organisations of failing to grasp the enormity of the fodder crisis, and they warn that immediate supports are needed to stave off another emergency.
Michael Creed said the shortages of fodder experienced earlier this year did not amount to a national crisis as had been described by many.
Mr Creed told the: “It was very challenging for a number of individual holdings but if you consider in terms of what we required to import, we imported 18,500 tonnes of fodder with State assistance.
In the context of seven million cattle in the country that’s the equivalent of about eight hours’ feed,” he said.
However, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) both hit out at Mr Creed in calling for more Government action to prevent severe shortages and fodder price hikes again this winter.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack said: “I remain unconvinced that the Government and specifically the minister directly responsible appreciate the full extent of the emergency that we’re looking at.
He seemed to think that the fodder crisis experienced in most parts of the country earlier this year was localised and had been somewhat blown out of proportion.
“The reality, of course, is that thousands of farmers incurred massive feed bills, often totalling thousands of euro; getting their herds through the spring and next winter looks a great deal more ominous than anything we’ve come through so far.
“We already know that we’re going to have to import massive quantities of fodder and will have to de-stock sooner rather than later.”
Mr Creed has already announced a €2.75m scheme to incentivise tillage farmers to plant fast-growing fodder crops as a way of making up for a shortage of hay and silage which this summer’s severe drought has caused.
However, pointing to silage prices which have surged 31% year-on-year, Mr McCormack called for the immediate establishment of a scheme for grassland farmers to incentivise the production of more silage.
Similarly, the IFA said Mr Creed must recognise there is a very real fodder crisis in parts of the country.
There are still fodder shortfalls and income pressures from last winter in the west and northwest but the more immediate problem is worst in the east, southeast, and south. Overall, as Teagasc has identified, there is a significant national fodder deficit,” a spokesman said.
The organisation said far more is required on top of the incentive for tillage farmers to close the fodder deficit.
“Relaxation of EU fertiliser and slurry rules are needed along with derogations under some GLAS measures so that farmers are given maximum opportunity to conserve sufficient fodder.”