Farmers in the county are now financially ‘under pressure’ a leading Donegal farm representative has confirmed as ongoing weather woes have made the much feared fodder crisis a reality.
A late spring which has resulted in flooded fields, animals remaining in sheds with the price of feed on the increase, are just some of the factors that have combined to create serious problems locally and nationwide.
Michael Chance, President of the IFA in Donegal has said that some Donegal farmers would have been forced out of business if it wasn’t for the single farm payment and the generosity of other farmers.
“We’re under pressure. Farmers are under financial pressure and the IFA are looking after cases where there is severe hardship. Fellow farmers within the county are supplying it,” he said.
He praised the attitude of farmers across the county who have been generous in supporting and helping other farmers who are running low or are out of fodder.
A walk took place in Laghey last night (Wednesday) to highlight the importance of farmers being prepared for next year.
He added that an early spring would have helped ease the burden felt by farmers across the county but that has not been the case.
“If you take the suckler cows, the income here is low, if it wasn’t for the single farm payment they’d be out of business. Prices have held up on stock so there is the option of selling it off, but the stock are the tools of the trade and this isn’t good for the beef industry,” he said.
He added that cattle farmers are moving more towards farming sheep as sheep are easier on the ground.
The Fianna Fáíl spokesperson on agriculture, Charlie McConalogue TD, said: “There is a real problem right across the country. In winter it was clear that there was a shortage in some parts of Donegal and now it’s everywhere, given it’s a late spring.
“Unfortunately the government has failed to recognise the problem and is much too slow in helping to alleviate the growing crisis. It is now crucial that the government cover the cost of transporting fodder into the country and that they put in place a fodder voucher scheme for farmers.”
He added that farmers are under immense financial pressure given how long the winter has been.
“They have to buy fodder at high prices and are not in a position to do so and that is putting strain on the farming community,” he said.
This week, Teagasc set up a Forage Register to help farmers who have run out of silage and other fodder to source supplies from those with a surplus. The organisation is texting all clients asking them to register any supplies of additional fodder they may have on regional registers.
Meanwhile, the head of the Teagasc advisory service, Dermot McCarthy has said: “Given the late spring and slow grass rate it will be essential for many farmers to budget feed to meet the minimum roughage requirement for stock for the next three to four weeks.”
Fodder clinics are also planned to take place in local offices. Support over the phone will be supplied by Teagasc advisors.
This week, the national IFA President, Joe Healy said that farmers don’t know where to turn and called on everyone involved to meet to discuss the issue.
“It’s probably the worst I ever remembered it. It was pretty localised to the north and to the northwest until the snow a few weeks ago. We organised a lot of fodder to come from the south and the south east up to the north and the northwest.
“This is serious from an animal and a human point of view. I’ve spoken to farmers that are very stressed and they don’t know where to turn,” he said.
Speaking on Morning Ireland yesterday morning, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, said that he understood the frustration of farmers who are struggling at this time of the year.
“There is clearly an availability of fodder in the country, it’s about matching that available fodder in one geographical area with a shortfall in another. What we are looking at now is the alternative option of sourcing fodder abroad,” he said.
Department of Agriculture officials were meeting with the main farmers co-ops later yesterday to discuss the ongoing fodder crisis.
The President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association, Pat McCormack said: “We are in a very serious crisis situation and our Minister must now take centre stage and lead a number of immediate initiatives to help farm families and measures are needed immediately and not next week. The Government can no longer stand back from this issue, they need to act.”
TD Joe McHugh, Government Chief Whip and Minister for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, said:
"My Cabinet colleague Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed has asked for an immediate review of fodder supplies.
"The aim of the review is to identify possible measures to increase fodder availability.
"Department officials met with Teagasc and the main co-ops in the week before Easter and they are meeting again today (Wednesday April 4) following what has been a difficult weekend.
"This group is ensuring a co-ordinated approach to the issue and will also look at the availability of fodder including possible recourse to the option of imports, should it be required."