Arrangements should be made now to import straw from either France or the UK to help livestock farmers in the west of Ireland get through the winter ahead, according to ICSA President Patrick Kent.

“Bad weather at harvest time has caused a huge problem with straw here in Ireland.

“Quality straw is essential for suckler and sheep farmers particularly at calving and lambing time,” he said

Kent added that some farmers depend on straw for housing animals and are now frantically looking for alternatives, but that this brings its own problems.

Renting B&B slatted accommodation is one option but this adds an extra residency which can cause the loss of the quality assurance bonus.

“Organic farmers have a particular problem because they have a requirement to provide bedded areas for all stock.

“ICSA argued successfully against the introduction of more taxes on diesel in the budget which is impacting on the cost of transporting straw from east to west.  However, more is required.”

He said that national recognition is needed and that the future of agriculture in Ireland needs a balance between the sectors.

Kent believes that putting a total focus on the needs of dairy farming over recent months has proven short-sighted.

“We need the government to show the same urgency around the difficulties in the cereals sector as was shown to the dairying sector.”

In short, we need to reconsider Foodwise 2025 because we need a balanced plan to make both livestock and tillage viable, rather than just a focus on telling farmers to produce more for less.

“ICSA is concerned that there will be further declines in the area sown to cereals in 2017 and that this will have a knock-on impact on the future availability of straw.  We need urgent action on the tillage crisis now.”

Kent admitted that feed compounders in the west of Ireland will be heavily promoting fodder extender rations this winter.

“There must be total transparency with regard to the make-up of these diets and, if need be, ICSA will meet the compounders over the coming weeks to ensure this is the case.”