Fodder crisis sees farmers struggle to feed animals

Fodder crisis in Leitrim
The national fodder crisis, which is resulting in a record number of dead farm animals across the country is “more problematic” in Leitrim where grass does not grow until later in the year.

The national fodder crisis, which is resulting in a record number of dead farm animals across the country is “more problematic” in Leitrim where grass does not grow until later in the year.

IFA Regional Development Officer, Adrian Leddy said the “issue is very serious” in the county and that fodder and feed is needed “urgently” as Leitrim farmers struggle to feed their animals on a minimum amount of “poor fodder from last summer.”

Leitrim IFA Chairman, Pat Gilhooley is appealing to farmers with surplus fodder, including straw, “to make it available to their neighbours who need feed urgently to get them through the next number of days until grass arrives.”

Although temperatures are expected to rise to bring much-needed grass growth, the problem with the land in Leitrim is that new green grass will take longer to emerge, prolonging the crisis here longer than elsewhere.

Commonly, this time of year in Leitrim, farmers buy in surplus silage and hay as needed to feed their animals until growth appears, but with the national fodder shortage this is proving “more than difficult.”

Conservative farmers don’t want to give away extra fodder, but the IFA is reminding farmers that animals lives depend on this feed. Leitrim farmers are having to drive further and further away to source bales, and with the scarcity of silage and hay also comes the severe price increase for bales.

The fodder crisis is a result of the prolonged winter weather, this is compounded by the dreadful summer harvest last year. Together these issues are putting many local farmers under severe pressure.

Pat Gilhooley and Leitrim IFA have called on merchants, co-ops and banks to support their farmer customers by applying the maximum flexibility to requests for extra credit lines.

Commodity prices are strong, with good prospects for the year ahead, “there is no excuse not to help out where cashflow problems exist.” The IFA are asking for a speedy turn around of “hours not days” on all credit applications.

There is no assistance available from the Government to deal with the crisis, Pat Gilhooley is calling on the Department of Agriculture to “immediately pay” farmers the outstanding AEOS and REPS payments to many farmers waiting for over five months.

Farm Assist has also been cut from farmers this month, the IFA have requested a meeting with Minister Joan Burton on the issue. Pat Gilhooley said the most recent budget was “discriminatory” against farmers, he called it “anti-rural.”

Leitrim IFA are calling for all farmers to “put their shoulder to the wheels” to work through this crisis.

Adrian Leddy said there is huge stress on farmers as more and more animals are dying on farms, the poor quality fodder left from last year could also be adding to the increasing problem with cows calving.

Knackeries have confirmed a huge surge in animal mortality in 2013, with dead animal collections up 20-40% in some regions. Poor body condition, bad quality fodder and extreme weather conditions were the main reasons cited by animal collectors for the jump in animal death rates. This is supported by figures from the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Identification and Movement System (AIMS), which showed that losses of cattle aged 48 months or older rose by 61% in January and February compared to the same period in 2012.

According to them, older animals have been hit hardest by poor quality fodder and being underfed. The problem is now so extreme that collectors are struggling to keep their skips empty and the rendering plants are unable to keep up with the work.

Teagasc have established a Fodder Crisis Task Force but there are calls for more intervention from the Government. West Cavan Fianna Fail County Councillor, John Paul Feeley has called on the Government to implement a Fodder Relief Scheme to assist farmers affected by the current severe weather.