‘Bring in loads of hay­lage for over €1,200’

Irish Examiner - Farming - - FRONT PAGE - Stephen Cado­gan

Im­ported hay­lage from the UK or France, cost­ing over €1,200 per lorry-load, has been sug­gested as emer­gency feed for farms worst hit by the late spring.

Sen­a­tor Tim Lom­bard, Fine Gael, said this week the Gov­ern­ment needs to look again at this op­tion, last used in 2013, when a fod­der cri­sis fund was set up, and 300,000 tonnes of hay­lage came from France. He said Ire­land now has about 300,000 ex­tra cows, com­pared to 2013, when the last fod­der cri­sis struck.

He said there is a gen­uine con­cern in the in­dus­try about get­ting through the next few weeks, with only 25% of nor­mal grass growth.

“The cli­mate has turned against us, and the de­ple­tion of these vast amounts of silage bales in the past few weeks has put farm­ers un­der ex­cep­tional stress,” said Sen­a­tor Lom­bard.

“Per­haps we need to start plan­ning for the un­for­tu­nate event that took place in 2013. We need to put in place, or talk about putting in place, a scheme.

“The only way it can work is if the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Food and the Ma­rine helps sup­ple­ment the cost, as it did in 2013.”

Grass growth has been held back by low soil tem­per­a­tures, av­er­ag­ing only 4.6 to 6.8 de­grees Centi­grade last week, as much as 1.3 de­grees sub­nor­mal for the time of year. But soil tem­per­a­tures im­proved this week to as high as nine de­grees, al­beit with much of the coun­try still get­ting cold and show­ery weather and an east­erly breeze.

Very low grass cov­ers of 300400kg per hectare were mea­sured in the first graz­ings in Fe­bru­ary, in­stead of the tar­get 500-600kg.

On heav­ier land, farms had less than 10% grazed up to this week, and ni­tro­gen fer­tiliser ap­pli­ca­tions were also well be­hind tar­get.

With silage scarcity ex­tend­ing be­yond the North West re­gion, which has en­dured a longer term short­age, Tea­gasc has is­sued feed­ing guide­lines for farms short of grass and silage (see page 10). Mean­while, Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed has said Tea­gasc will pre­pare new guide­lines to help farm­ers cope with ex­treme weather events such as Storm Emma. He was an­swer­ing ques- tions in the Dail on the Storm Emma live­stock deaths at the Greenfield Dairy Part­ners Ltd farm in Co Kilkenny, where Tea­gasc pro­vides busi­ness plan­ning and tech­ni­cal sup­port over­sight. “Tea­gasc re­grets the an­i­mal deaths that oc­curred, but faced with the large snow­fall and drift­ing, are sat­is­fied that ev­ery­thing that was hu­manly pos­si­ble was done to al­le­vi­ate the sit­u­a­tion,” said Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed, re­spond­ing to ques­tions from Labour TD Wil­lie Pen­rose. Over 24 hours, five calves and two cows died on the farm due to the ad­verse ef­fects of Storm Emma; an ad­di­tional calf died in the fol­low­ing 24 hours.

How­ever, the farm has had a very good an­i­mal wel­fare record in its eight years of op­er­a­tion, with cow and calf mor­tal­ity sig­nif­i­cantly be­low na­tional av­er­age rates. Storm Emma brought 26 cm of snow and east­erly gale force winds caus­ing drifts of up to 1.5m on the farm and ac­cess roads.

In prepa­ra­tion, about 80 in-calf cows and 30 calves were moved to a nearby farm­yard with more shel­tered ac­com­mo­da­tion, leav­ing 290 cows on the farm (270 calved and 20 ap­proach­ing calv­ing). The farm man­ager and as­sis­tant stayed on the farm for the en­tire du­ra­tion of the storm to mon­i­tor the stock. Four other staff were brought on to the farm to as­sist. Staff en­sured all an­i­mals were pro­vided with ad­e­quate feed and wa­ter, the main an­i­mal wel­fare pri­or­ity in such sit­u­a­tions.

All calves were fed warm milk twice daily each day prior to, dur­ing, and af­ter the storm. Cows were milked once ev­ery day, which is the nor­mal prac­tice on the farm dur­ing the busy calv­ing pe­riod. The Min­is­ter said Tea­gasc and the other greenfield stake­hold­ers will carry out a thor­ough re­view of the Storm Emma event, in­clud­ing farm in­fra­struc­ture, and how such ad­verse events are pre­pared for and al­le­vi­ated in the fu­ture.

Sen­a­tor Tim Lom­bard: Con­cerns about farms get­ting through the next few weeks.

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