The ongoing fodder crisis is particularly severe for suckler and sheep farmers who do not have a monthly cheque coming in, and whose farming enterprises do not sell stock at this time of year, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA)

Speaking on the matter, ICSA president Patrick Kent said: “Cash flow is a significant issue for suckler and sheep farmers and, with virtually no fodder left to move around the country, meal vouchers to supplement fodder are now essential to alleviate the hardship.

This would be limited to those with no monthly cheque and only in respect of normal livestock numbers traditionally kept on such farms.

The ICSA has been arguing that meal vouchers were an essential component to stave off this crisis since last December, according to Kent.

He added: “We believe that a system could be devised that is targeted at farmers who have a fodder crisis identified by way of an up-to-date fodder budget compiled by Teagasc or a private planner.

“We believe that the amount per farm should be linked to the need identified, but it would be likely that the cost could be in the order of €50 per suckler cow or €5 per sheep.

“Farmers have no option but to keep cattle housed, so the priority now has to be getting energy to those cattle. It’s calamitous that we have got to this point when all the signals pointing to a fodder crisis were evident months ago.”

Emergency assistance

ICSA suckler chairman John Halley welcomed a statement from Minister Creed yesterday afternoon that the Department of Agriculture’s Early Warning System is fully operational at this time.

“This will provide emergency assistance to farmers whose animals are experiencing serious welfare issues and to farmers who are unable to cope with the situation.

“I would urge all farmers to use this facility which was set up for precisely the conditions being experienced at present.

We need more support for farm families enduring severe hardship and we must remember that this is not just about animal welfare, but the welfare of farm families as well.