“The strain that’s there on the ground is just horrendous - there’s no feed and there’s no money.”
These are the words of Davie Keith, Development Officer with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) in Donegal. “The sad thing is that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.”
He was describing how the dire shortage of fodder has left farmers reeling. The crisis is so severe that one middle-aged farmer in Cavan shot his herd and then himself earlier this month, after being unable to secure finance to buy feed.
“I’ve had phone calls from desperate farmers from as far away as Dungloe looking for fodder and that was five weeks ago,” Thomas Óg McGarrigle, a cattle farmer from Ballintra, told the Donegal Democrat/People’s Press. With more cold, wet weather on the way, the IFA are worried about farmers who might be trying to cope on their own.“We know there are other people we need to get to. Our farmers are isolated and independent and it’s not easy for them to ask for help.”
Donegal IFA Chairman PJ McMonagle continued: “There’s been hard times before but what’s making it so much worse this time is that the expenses are so high. The earnings have come down so much but the expenses have gone through the roof. The money is not there.
“The one thing about the farming community is that everyone helps everyone else. What we are saying to our members are, if you are in trouble, contact us. If you are worried about a neighbour, call in and check on them.”
Thomas Óg McGarrigle says he’s luckier than most. He reduced the size of his herd from 48 to 30 this year, plus calves, and had a little fodder to spare.
“I’ve been going out every day to friends and neighbours, sharing it out as best I can. The pit’s nearly empty now: there’s just enough to see me into next week. After that, I’ll have to buy meal, because hay can’t be got. Everyone is in a bad way. As far as I know, there hasn’t been any hay from England brought in to Donegal yet. “I know farmers who put down fertilizer but the frost killed everything. The costs are unreal. Fertilizer’s the biggest cost. It used to be €200 a tonne but now it’s €500 a tonne. A round bale of hay, when you can get one, is making €45 when it would normally be €20-25. “
* See today’s Donegal People’s Press and Donegal Democrat for full story.