The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has called for a scheme that will incentivise tillage farmers to grow catch crops after this year’s harvest.

The farming organisation has proposed an incentive of €250/ha for tillage farmers who grow a temporary crop of short rotation grass for fodder production over the winter months, and a €200/ha payment for those who grow catch crops.

Within the proposal, the ICSA suggests that these payments would be capped at 50ha for each crop.

The chair of the ICSA tillage committee Gavin Carberry, referred to a similar scheme which ran in 2018 whereby farmers were urged to produce additional feed throughout the autumn months.

“It is vital that we start preparing now for the winter ahead and given the concerns around the cost and availability of meal, such an incentive would encourage tillage farmers to actively engage in the fodder market,” said Carberry.

Carberry also outlined that an initiative such as this could provide additional fodder for the livestock sector when supplies and availability of winter feed are so uncertain.

“We need to actively encourage more partnerships between the tillage and livestock sectors,” Carberry said.

“Tillage farmers can partner up with either drystock or dairy farmers to provide fast growing forage like Westerwolds or Italian ryegrass, as well as catch crops such as fodder rape and stubble turnips – all of which would be invaluable to livestock farmers come the winter.”

Under such a partnership, according to Carberry, both sides would win. Livestock farmers would benefit from an opportunity to plan for winter feeding with the knowledge that feed supplies will be available at a reasonable cost. Meanwhile, tillage farmers would maximise production and will receive payment for this.

The sooner a scheme such as this is announced, the better said Carberry, as merchants will need time to ensure seed availability for the farmers that will take part.

“Potentially we are staring at a massive fodder crisis later in the year, the impact of which would be catastrophic. It is clear the various farming sectors must work in tandem if we are to meet the challenges ahead.

“A practical solution like this gives us the best chance to cope with all the uncertainty around, and to prepare for further instability in global feed and fuel markets,” Carberry continued.

He concluded by adding that if such a scheme was to be delivered, it would be essential that flexibility is afforded to GLAS participants to maximise the potential of the programme.