Department urged to help farmers build fodder resilience

A second year of difficult weather conditions and fodder shortage could cost Northern Ireland’s agricultural sector dearly, Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) president Cyril Millar warned.

Addressing guests at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs breakfast reception at Balmoral Show, Millar said support was needed for farmers to get back to normality – particularly in regard to rebuilding fodder reserves.

With many farms’ reserve supplies depleted he said the shortage left farmers exposed for a second crisis.

The president said that a second year of pressure would create an “even bigger disaster” than seen in the winter and early spring.

Help and support

“The weather we have had to endure has been horrific for agriculture – and that I think is putting it modestly,” Millar said.

“A lot of farmers have suffered – silage has been in short supply and it’s been highly priced. Along with the better prices, the cost base and the cost factor has risen significantly.

My great fear is that if we have another year like last year, when our whole supply and reserve base for fodder is depleted, then next winter we would have an even bigger disaster.

“I would ask that the department gives us all the help and support that it can to help farmers stabilise themselves back to a normal supply.”

Poll

The wet summer followed by a prolonged winter put pressure on farmers across the island.

A poll carried out by AgriLand showed that just three weeks ago almost a fifth of dairy farmers had not been able to get their cows out.

Of those who voted, less than two-thirds said they had managed to get their cows out full-time with a fifth opting to graze part-time.

More than 1,700 people spread across all four provinces voted in just two days.