Fod­der bailout is a wel­fare is­sue after lat­est rain del­uge

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COMMENT - Stephen Cado­gan

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed yes­ter­day asked his of­fi­cials to de­velop a fod­der im­port scheme, and said a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort of all stake­hold­ers is needed to sup­port farm­ers with­out ad­e­quate feed sup­plies, un­til live­stock can be turned out to graze.

Pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments have been quicker to come to farm­ers’ aid in cir­cum­stances such as these, with Michael Creed last week say­ing he would closely mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion, be­fore tak­ing fur­ther ac­tion, hav­ing ear­lier in­tro­duced a fod­der trans­port sub­sidy which farm­ers say has too much com­plex bu­reau­cracy at­tached, and for which only 15 ap­pli­ca­tions had been re­ceived, up to last week.

Ear­lier last week, he re­minded farm­ers the ba­sic re­quire­ment for vi­a­bil­ity, whether on an ex­pand­ing dairy farm or a dry stock farm in a more dif­fi­cult area, is the ca­pac­ity to con­serve ad­e­quate win­ter feed for the live­stock num­bers on the farm, even for such a pro­longed and dif­fi­cult win­ter as this has been. This is in keep­ing with his re­spon­si­bil­ity, as agri­cul­ture min­is­ter, to lead the fo­cus to im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity per animal, in or­der to re­duce emis­sions.

With agri­cul­ture un­der po­lit­i­cal bom­bard­ment for years over in­creas­ing green­house gas emis­sions due to ex­pan­sion of live­stock num­bers, there may be less po­lit­i­cal will­ing­ness to help the farm­ers whose live­stock are be­ing ma­ligned as a cause of cli­mate change, even if many of these farm­ers have been through hell since last au­tumn, try­ing to feed their share of the ex­pand­ing cat­tle herd, which was at 6.7m at the end of De­cem­ber.

The Govern­ment has come un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, to whom An Taisce added their voice last week, ask­ing Mr Creed to take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for re­vers­ing the up­surge in am­mo­nia pol­lu­tion, which is the lat­est stick for en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists to beat the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try with. The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency last week pub- lished fig­ures show­ing that Ire­land ex­ceeded its EU emis­sion lim­its for am­mo­nia for the first time, in 2016, and show­ing that emis­sions of this gas are in­creas­ing.

The agri­cul­ture sec­tor ac­counts for 99% of our am­mo­nia emis­sions in Ire­land, aris­ing from our an­nual use of 40m tonnes of animal ma­nures and 300,000 tonnes of ni­tro­gen in fer­tilis­ers.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency an­nounce­ment may have come at a bad time, just when the live­stock farm­ers caus­ing am­mo­nia emis­sions need a bailout to res­cue them from the ef­fects of very bad weather.

Of course, am­mo­nia is only a mi­nor prob­lem com­pared to other green­house gas emis­sions at­trib­uted to our live­stock, the most im­por­tant of which is meth­ane.

But also at is­sue is whether farm­ers can rea­son­ably be ex­pected to cater for such a pro­longed and dif­fi­cult “win­ter”, which be­gan last au­tumn for many, and will con­tinue well into 2018.

Mr Creed said last week con­di­tions had im­proved suf­fi­ciently to al­low some graz­ing by day.

But that is no longer the case in most ar­eas, after a week of heavy rain, up to two inches in some ar­eas. That has deep­ened the emer­gency for many farm­ers, and raised animal wel­fare wor­ries, not to mind farmer wel­fare wor­ries.

Early this week, soil tem­per­a­tures were still be­low the six de­grees needed for grass growth in many ar­eas. Bad weather con­tin­u­ing into April is es­pe­cially dev­as­tat­ing for farm­ers in the north and west, who couldn’t get a sec­ond cut of silage last year due to bad weather which also forced them to take cat­tle off the fields. Some of them are fac­ing into a ninth month of feed­ing housed cat­tle.

It was co-ops led by Dairy­gold who have taken the ini­tia­tive, de­cid­ing to im­port fod­der.

It all adds up to an un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion that farm­ers could not be ex­pected to han­dle on their own with­out ex­tra Govern­ment help.

“What is at is­sue is if farm­ers could rea­son­ably be ex­pected to cater for such a pro­longed and dif­fi­cult win­ter, which be­gan for many last au­tumn, and will 2018” con­tinue well into

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.