Fodder crisis: Farmers struggle as hay costs €35-50/bale delivered to Donegal

Farmers in the north-west are struggling to source fodder as a 4X4 round bale of hay can cost anywhere between €35/bale and €50/bale delivered to Co. Donegal.

This stark revelation was revealed by Andrew McShea, Co. Donegal’s Irish Farmer’s Association’s (IFA’s) Rural Development Committee representative.

At the moment round bales of silage within the county can cost between €30/bale and €35/bale, he added.

McShea was speaking ahead of an IFA livestock meeting that is scheduled to take place in the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny, tomorrow night (November 9) at 8:00pm.

The very real fodder crisis in the north-west – especially in Co. Donegal – is set to be highlighted at the meeting. Other issues scheduled to be discussed include the Mercosur trade deal as well as the price of beef and sheep.

McShea – who is based in Ballyshannon – outlined how consistent rain over the last few months has caused significant problems for farmers.

Speaking to AgriLand, he said: “To give you an idea of the situation at the moment, we hung gates around the farm on September 8. The next time we managed to get out on the land was last weekend, when we got a few dry days.

It has just been consistent rain, even going as far back as June. Last night (Monday night) there was an unmerciful deluge of rain – it’s straight back to square one.

“There are some farmers who have had cattle in for at least two months. These farmers are well through their first cut of silage now.

“I know of one farmer who bought 100 bales and they are gone already. That farmer will need another 250 bales to get him through the winter.”

Unsustainable costs

Hay – that costs in the region of €35-50/bale delivered to Co. Donegal – is an unsustainable option for farmers, according to McShea – who has been involved in trying to source fodder for farmers who were short.

Even small square bales of hay are making between €4.50/bale and €5/bale, he added.

Transport costs are the killer at the moment.

“Straw can’t be got. Deals have been done for some bales, but it’s hardly good enough for bedding,” he said.

Branch AGMs are beginning to take place in the coming weeks in Co. Donegal.

McShea explained that members will be asked to carry out a fodder survey at these meetings in order to calculate: how much fodder is in the county; how much fodder each individual farmer will need to get them through the winter period; and whether or not there is any surplus fodder in parts of the country which could be distributed to areas where there is a shortage.

Some feed mills have also been contacted in relation to looking into the viability of creating a two or a three-way combination ration that could sustain cattle in the absence of plentiful silage.

It is hoped that a better overview of the situation will be provided following tomorrow night’s meeting.

Ground conditions

With the relentless rainfall, many farmers in the north-west were prevented from getting their second cuts of silage.

“Even though previous years have been wet, we always managed to get a week or two here and there to get our silage.

This year it was a struggle to get our first cut of silage. It was nearly impossible to get a second cut with the constant rain.

“Some farmers may have good grass covers at the moment, but ground conditions and water laying in the fields would leave the feeding value of it at close to 0% at this stage,” McShea said.


Teagasc is encouraging farmers who think they may be facing a winter fodder problem to plan solutions now. Teagasc’s office in Co. Longford is set to hold a series of clinics over the coming weeks to facilitate this planning in order to minimise problems.

The objective of the planning is to maintain animal performance in a cost-effective way between now and next Spring. Assistance will be provided to farmers in order to create a feed budget, as well as looking at the most economic options available to manage feeding over the winter months.

Farmers are encouraged to attend these clinics – which are free to both clients and non-clients – for peace of mind, if nothing else.

Information that will be required at the clinic will include: winter livestock numbers; number of bales of silage, hay and straw available; and the length, breath and height of silage pit (if applicable).