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