Denis Drennan, president of ICMSA

Call for fodder scheme due to ‘long wet winter’

A fodder support scheme is needed for all farmers due to the “exceptionally long and wet winter”, according to the ICMSA.

The farmers’ group claim in “many parts” of the country cattle have been housed since last September and “in most areas” since early October.

Frequent downpours has led to what the ICMSA describe as an “extremely difficult Spring”.

A glimpse of the ground condition problems facing farmers was provided by the lengthy postponement of the Longford Ploughing Championships. Planned to be staged in Bunlahy last Sunday (March 24) the “adverse weather conditions” saw organisers put the event back to Sunday, April 14.

Rain has persisted this week and Met Eireann has forecast unsettled, showery weather to continue into the Easter weekend.

Calling for a fodder support scheme the ICMSA President, Denis Drennan said farmers are enduring “enormous mental strain” from a financial and personal perspective due to the wet weather.

Mr Drennan also called for inspections to be “put aside” for now in recognition of the exceptional ground conditions.

“We know from communications and contact with our farmer members and the wider industry that cashflow at farm level is extremely tight, and it’s also becoming clear that jobs that would normally be complete at this stage of the year have not even commenced across all farm sectors.

“Farmers are weeks behind in their work schedules and we think that a clear priority at this stage must be to provide guidance and assistance to farmers until animals get to grass and then support them in rebuilding fodder stock for the 2024/25 winter,” said the ICMSA President.

Noting that the Minister introduced a fodder scheme in 2022 and 2023, Mr Drennan said it was “already obvious” a further scheme would be required for 2024.

Mr Drennan contended that this year’s scheme must cover all farmers and that last year’s “unfair and unacceptable” exclusion of dairy farmers could not be repeated.

“Whether you’re a dairy farmer, beef farmer, sheep farmer or tillage farmer, all are under pressure and the Minister needs to step up and provide support immediately,” said Mr Drennan.

Despite the necessity of previous schemes in 2022 and 2023, the ICMSA maintain this year’s prolonged spell of dreadful weather still presents “unexpected challenges”.Given this context the Celt asked Mr Drennan if you it can really be described as presenting “unexpected challenges” for farmers?

“The unexpected challenge this year is that since probably mid-June of last year, it hasn’t stopped raining leading to a very poor second cut of silage and probably little or no third cut,” he said.

“In addition, tillage farmers had a very difficult year, and the quality of straw isn’t suitable for feeding. The winter period for many farmers is two to three months longer than expected and while farmers have a buffer every year in general, the extra period indoors which was completely unexpected has used up this buffer.”

The Celt asked Mr Drennan what he would say to those who wonder why farmers don’t either save more fodder or stock less cattle?

“Farmers did save as much fodder as possible but with wet conditions since June last year and animals in 2-3 months longer, it has used up the buffer. Once the weather improves immediately, farmers will set about building a new buffer for 2024/25.”

The Department of Agriculture has not responded to The Anglo-Celt’s queries on the cost of previous fodder support schemes and if dairy farmers are being considered for inclusion in a 2024 scheme.