Minister says importing of fodder is 'necessary' due to bad weather

The Dairygold Co-Op is to begin importing fodder from Thursday

Minister says importing of fodder is 'necessary' due to bad weather

File photo. Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

Updated: 18.05

The Agriculture Minister has said the importation of fodder supplies should begin as soon as tomorrow.

Many farmers have completely run out of food to feed farm animals after months of wet weather.

Minister Michael Creed announced the measures after meeting with Teagasc and industry representatives on the current fodder situation.

Minister Creed said: "As fodder supplies are now tightening across the country, it is important that these are managed proactively.

"We will unfortunately have to import fodder again as occurred in 2013 to supplement existing supplies as the prolonged bad weather conditions continue.

"I have asked my officials to develop a scheme to support the import of fodder from outside the Island of Ireland."

Shortages

The minister added that as fodder tightened across the country there is no simple solution to the current shortages.

But the minister made clear that it will require "a collaborative effort of all stakeholders" to support affected farmers.

He also welcomed the commitment by Teagasc and Co-ops to identify farmers at most risk of running short of feed and support them through individual advisory and fodder budgeting sessions.

"Difficult period"

Mr Creed added: "This is a very difficult period for some famers around the country.

"Officials from my department, in conjunction with Teagasc and the Co-ops have been actively monitoring the availability of fodder supplies for purchase by farmers.

"I am also aware of challenges in the arable sector and have been in touch with Commissioner Hogan in this regard."

Meetings are being arranged between the minister and the main banks to discuss steps to alleviate the short-term financial pressures arising for farmers dealing with fodder shortages.

Dairygold Co-Op

It comes as one of the country's largest co-ops is set to import more than 2,500 tonnes of fodder from the UK, amid warnings that shortages in Ireland have reached 'emergency levels'.

Poor weather conditions during the winter months has resulted in livestock remaining indoors for long periods of time - putting huge pressure on farmers to keep the animals fed.

Continuing cold and wet weather has led to further uncertainty on farms across the country, with reports that some animals are starving.

Heavy rains

The Dairygold Co-Op has said its first load of imported haylage and hay will arrive in Ireland on Thursday.

Dairygold Chairman John O’Gorman explained: "There has been a definite tightening of fodder stocks especially in the last week. The heavy rain across the country over the Easter weekend compounded an already bad situation on the ground for dairy farmers following one of the worst winters on record.

"We have no doubt that this imported fodder is essential. Unfortunately, ground temperatures and grass growth remain well below normal for this time of year so at this point in time it’s difficult to know when dairy farmers will be in a position to return to grazing."

He added: "This is a very costly operation and we will be making this point to the [Department of Agriculture] and recommending that it initiates its haulage support programme that worked so well to assist in industry during the last fodder crisis in 2013."

'Emergency levels'

However, Fianna Fáil has accused Minister Creed of playing 'catch-up'.

The party's agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue said: "Despite warnings from my party and farm organisations as far back as September last year, the Minister ignored farmers and failed to take any concrete action to address the situation.

"As the bad weather continued through the winter, it increased pressure on fodder stocks as animals were being kept indoors and feed was being used up. Now that the crisis has reached emergency levels, it is not acceptable for the Minister to continue with his hands-off approach."

Yesterday, Minister Creed called on any farmers with fodder supplies to make them available to neighbours through local groups, the co-ops and agriculture authority Teagasc.

Additional reporting: Jack Quann