A fodder crisis in developing in Ireland and has already taken grip in parts of the country, according to Sinn Fein’s agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny.

But – in a recent exchange in the Dail – the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has claimed that estimates indicate that there will be sufficient fodder across the country.

Deputy Kenny asked the minister to clarify his plans for a fodder aid package for farmers affected by extreme weather conditions over the past two months.

The Sinn Fein TD outlined that a fodder crisis is developing in Ireland and has already developed in the north-west and along the western seaboard.

“The one thing we would like to get from the minister today is his agreement that there is a crisis and that something must be done about it. Perhaps we could get that much at least.

Farmers are in a terrible situation. Last weekend, I saw farmers trying to make silage in pools of water in my part of the country. That is happening throughout the country.

“The fodder they are producing will be of extremely poor quality, and if they have to buy fodder, the prices will be through the roof. Farmers are selling their cattle rather than face a winter crisis without fodder. The minister must step up to the mark and try to do something about it,” the Sligo-Leitrim TD said.

The looming fodder crisis is mounting alongside income difficulties for farmers, he added.

Every week the marts in the north-west are full of cows being sold by farmers because they are facing a winter in which they will not have any fodder for their cattle. We are facing a real crisis.

“It is a crisis for the industry. If there is no supply of weanlings next spring because farmers are not producing them, that will produce a further crisis down the road,” he said.

Monitoring the situation

Minister Creed explained that he has asked Teagasc to monitor the situation on the ground through its network of advisers.

“We estimate that there is sufficient fodder across the country, but it may be that in some areas there is a deficit and in others there is a surplus. We will monitor the situation.

“Underfoot grazing conditions have deteriorated and although there is still substantial grass cover because of the mild, wet weather, it is not suitable for letting cattle out on. In parts of the country, cattle have been kept inside for a protracted period.

“In individual cases where there may be welfare issues arising because of fodder, there is a contact point in the department for this and the department may step in to assist individual farmers,” Minister Creed said.

In response, Deputy Kenny said that many farmers in the north-west have already ate through a significant portion of their first cut of silage and never managed to get a second cut due to the adverse weather conditions.

The minister talks about the grass growing – but while the grass can grow through the roof, the cattle cannot walk on the land. It is that simple. It is too wet.

“The farmers need to be reassured that the minister will put a scheme in place that will be there for them, and telling them that it will be done one-by-one does not give them that reassurance,” he concluded.