Farmers across the county are facing a very difficult Winter following the worst Summer in living memory. Higher than average rainfall across July and August have led to difficulties saving silage and hay and any feed saved has not been of great quality according to local farming representatives.
The situation has been exacerbated by substantial increases in the price of feed resulting from severe weather conditions across the country and in the US and Australia. The price of meal and nuts has soared in recent months and is expected to hit €400 a tonne before Christmas.
Leitrim IFA County Executive Chairperson, Pat Gilhooley, told the Leitrim Observer that the situation had already reached crisis level “and we’re heading for total disaster for the industry unless farmers are given assistance”.
He said that only 30 to 35% of fodder had been saved to date and the quality of silage, hay and straw taken was “far from great”. There have already been incidents recorded nationally of animals sickening from fodder contaminated with slugs and with wet conditions leaving farmers with very little option but to immediately bale or clamp silage after cutting, there are fears that the silage will be extremely poor this year.
“We need Teagasc to hold clinics and to test the quality of silage to make sure that it’s of a quality we can use,” said Mr Gilhooley. “The reality is that we are now looking at having to supplement with more meal and nuts and without a substantial cash injection that won’t be feasible for some farmers.”
The Co Leitrim Chairperson said that the pulling of cattle prices by factories had also caused significant hardship for local farmers with a €300 price difference already seen in what is being offered here in Ireland and in the UK.
“This sort of move is taking the confidence out of an already struggling business and we’re at the stage where farmers backs are to the wall. We will be taking on the factories on this as we can’t be expected to take this lying down. The bottom line for our animals has to be €4 a kilo, anything less than this and we’ll be losing money,” he said.
Poaching of the land has led to animals being rehoused earlier than usual, a fact that IFA Regional Development Officer, Adrian Leddy, said has already cut into saved fodder stocks for Co Leitrim farmers.
“I know that some farmers’ land is so saturated that they have had no alternative but to sell off stock and put their remaining animals back into housing early. This means that they are using up the fodder that they had saved for the coming winter and fodder put aside for next year. The question is how these farmers are going to be able to feed their stock when the little fodder they have runs out,” he said.
“Since last June the weather simply hasn’t let up and we have poor soil in Co Leitrim and that hasn’t been given the chance to dry out. We’re seeking poor fodder, rising input costs such as feed and diesel and the pressure is really on farmers at the moment.”
The IFA is now calling on the Minister for Agriculture to immediately release payments under the Single Farm Payment, Disadvantaged Area, AEOS and REPs schemes.“We need to see these payments released now. There is no way that farmers will be able to bear these costs,” said the Co Leitrim Chairperson, Pat Gilhooley.