A fodder crisis is hardly a new phenomenon for Irish farmers to be dealing with. During my lifetime I can recall at least three.
The year that was 1985 saw the rain starting to fall midway through May and, in a metaphorical sense, it didn’t stop until the following St Patrick’s Day, a full 10 months later.
The drought of 2018 wasn’t much fun either for livestock farmers, but for polar opposite reasons.
But on all of these occasions, farmers found themselves battling the elements – forces of nature they had no control over.
2022 fodder crisis?
However, in total contrast, 2022 may well prove to be the year that sees Irish farmers confronting a fodder crisis – only this time it will be all of their own making.
The short and sweet of it is as follows – if farmers do not make enough silage over the coming weeks, they could well be looking at the gable wall of silos before Christmas.
Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) president, Pat McCormack ,put the matter very succinctly earlier this week when he suggested that the market for youngstock could fall like a stone this backend, if there is not sufficient silage in the country to feed them.
Many farmers are attributing the horrendous price of fertiliser as their reason for not producing grass this year.
But how does that thinking stack up against the prospect of even more ferocious concentrate costs next winter allied with the possibility of meal being rationed?
Good quality silage is the best buffer against high winter meal bills.
Meanwhile, all the farming organisations are pushing government to deliver a support package that fully recognises the scale of the input cost pressure on farm businesses at the present time.
In my humble opinion, the government will never accede to supporting the prices of livestock.
However, it may well retrospectively introduce a scheme that recognises the input cost challenge facing farmers at the present time.
I know that commercial credit is hard to get at the moment. But I sense the banks fully recognise the need for farmers to produce all the grass and silage that they can this year.
So my clear advice to farmers humming and hawing about making silage this year is this – get off the fence, buy the fertiliser you need now and get on with the job at hand.
The clock is ticking, we are half way through April. Oh and make sure you keep the receipts.