Extreme farming: ‘The last 9 months have been a battle against mother nature’

With surmounting financial, physical and psychological pressures on farmers, Lorcan McCabe, deputy president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), is urging farmers “to look out for each other”.

Over the last nine months, McCabe says Irish farmers have been exposed to weather extremes that they wouldn’t have seen in the last decade,” the deputy president stressed:

“Some farmers have experienced the worst of every situation. Storm Ophelia levelled maize crops last October and whole milking machines were frozen over in the severe cold. Now wells have gone dry.

You’re only just getting up and running or even walking before another blow hits.

With livestock, farmers and farming families currently in the midst of “yet another battle with mother nature”, McCabe encourages farmers to remember that “they are not in this alone”.

“There are 20,000 farmers around the country in the same position,” said the ICMSA representative, adding that “this fact is important to keep in mind”.

Dairy, Expansion, ICMSA
Lorcan McCabe, ICMSA deputy president

“The ‘man above’ is not focusing on you. It is a countrywide problem,” said McCabe.

Taking the time to talk

Much to his dismay, McCabe promises that he does not “have a magic wand”.

“We cannot make it rain; but, what we can do, is help each other out to try and alleviate the pressure.

Talk to Teagasc, talk to your farm adviser, your co-ops, the ICMSA. There are all there to offer farm and/or financial advise.

“If you are feeling the pressure do talk and do look for advice. The people that bottle it all up are the people that are most at risk,” urged the deputy president.

McCabe believes that encouraging farmers to talk to each other will provide a network of support that may prove to be vital.

‘Pulling back’

According to the ICMSA Irish farmers will need to “seriously examine” their farming practices now in order to become more resilient in the future.

McCabe believes that the rapid expansion of the sector over recent years has left farmers vulnerable.

We have been able to maximise profit over the last few years; but when a hiccup occurs we go under pressure very quickly.

He stated that stocking rates need to be looked at going forward.

“For those people who are stocked to the limit you may need to pull back,” he said.

For the time being McCabe advises farmers to seriously consider “getting rid of any unproductive stock – sooner rather than later”.

Further information

In an information leaflet released by the Health Service Executive (HSE) farmers are encouraged to “accept the things we cannot change”.

“Realise that financial and time-pressure challenges due to weather, crop prices, and market demand are beyond your control,” the HSE states.

Farmers looking for advice are encouraged by McCabe to contact the Teagasc National Fodder phone helpline at: 087-7971377 from 9:00am to 9:00pm each day.