‘3,500 bales coming in over the coming days’

As the first shipments of fodder ordered in by Dairygold begin to arrive into the country, Seamus O’Mahony – head of sales at Dairygold Agribusiness – said that it is part of an order of some 3,500 bales overall.

Speaking to RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland show from Rosslare Port this morning, O’Mahoney described how the bales of hay and haylage were being unloaded and set for distribution to the co-op’s suppliers who were in the most difficulty.

“We’ve about 3,500 bales of forage coming in over the coming days, over the next two to three days,” he said.

Commenting on why the co-op acted to bring in the importation of fodder, the Dairygold representative said: “We have two explanations with our farmer members through our milk advisory teams and our area sales managers and we’ve been seeing over the last couple of months that farmers have been trying to stretch existing fodder.

We’ve had two storm events; a late spring; farmers didn’t have the opportunity to put out fertiliser; and normally cows would be at grass by St. Patrick’s day – so all of those factors didn’t click.

“We expect it will be another two weeks before grass supply will balance out demand. So, we had to act fast and early,” O’Mahoney explained.

Crisis

Broached on when exactly Dairygold realised it was a crisis, the head of sales said: “For the last two or three weeks we’ve been matching farmers that are short on forage with farmers that had surplus and local supplies were beginning to dwindle and it’s better to be too early than too late.

“So, we’ve had an existing supply route from a previous forage deficit back in 2013 so we’ve had the infrastructure to be able to support our farmers so we acted on that.

Even as we speak we have a couple of our team in the UK to sort more feed if needed.

O’Mahoney was also asked about Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed changing his view on the availability of fodder yesterday.

To this, he said: “There has been a stakeholder meeting set up by the Department of Agriculture with the advisory bodies and the co-operative bodies together.

“If weather had changed in the last week or 10 days, most people may have been able to get through with support from their neighbours – but at this stage many farmers are saying that they don’t see a change for the next week or ten days so some farmers will try to hold onto their fodder to get through.”

Denial?

Asked if he agreed with the assessment that the Government was in denial over the issue, O’Mahoney replied:

“I would say that it was an evolving situation, and maybe two weeks ago you might have liked to imagine that people would get through the situation but we just couldn’t take that chance.

“Our members had firsthand experience, and the feedback from our members [was] that they needed feed; the co-op Dairygold is there to help its members.

“We’ve had provisional feedback form the Department of Agriculture that there will be some support form that; I haven’t details on that but we’re hoping the department will support that. One way or the other, Dairygold has gone ahead and brought in the fodder for the farmers because it’s needed now, and we’ll be giving the feed at the cost from the farm in the UK and retaining the costs for now.

If we go back to 2013, we imported over 10,000t or 11,000t at that stage.

“I’m not sure it’ll be as high as that this time but it could be half as much or two thirds as much as that again.”