AS the impact of Storm Emma continues this week, one farm leader has condemned the national subsidised fodder transport scheme as a “shambles”.
Former regional Teagasc advisor, Brendan Henaghan, has also warned that there may not be a plentiful supply of grass on some Clare farms until early May.
IFA president Joe Healy has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to look at the implications of Storm Emma, which looks set to create a major fodder crisis.
“Grass growth is at zero in March. Grass is saturated and will rot with any hard frost. We will not see good growth for a few weeks.
“The bad weather has put back growth by about a month. It will be at least two weeks before land is dry again and then the cold weather will add to the fodder crisis,” Mr Healy said.
He described the introduction of the transport scheme as a “gesture” to tackle the fodder shortage, but noted very few farmers believe it is a good scheme.
“It is complicating something that doesn’t need to be complicated. This is an animal and a human welfare issue. A farmer will go without his own dinner to feed animals,” he said.
He said the IFA proposed the introduction of a meal voucher system but the Department of Agriculture and Minister Creed turned this down.
“The IFA were very disappointed and were disgusted with this refusal to be honest,” Mr Healy said.
On Monday, a farmer in Wicklow told him he had postponed the transportation of a load of fodder for the north-west, due to last week’s storm.
Having spent a long period working for Teagasc in Clare, Brendan Henaghan is well placed to assess the impact of the fodder shortage on farmers.
“Clare has some of the most challenging country. Speaking from experience, Clare has some outstanding farmers, farming in very difficult terrain.”
Mr Henaghan said the difference between good land in places like Newmarket-on-Fergus and gley soil in Kilmaley, Miltown and parts of West Clare is like “chalk and cheese”.
“Some of the best farmers I met were in West Clare, who did a brilliant job on difficult terrain,” he added.
He said adverse weather conditions is posing huge challenges for farmers with heavy land.
Asked if the current Government supports are targeted enough for farmers with wet land, he said they probably are not.
He urged any farmer experiencing a fodder shortage to devise a plan with a Teagasc advisor and discuss all options, such as selling saleable stock.
By Dan Danaher