Fodder crisis; what fodder crisis? I hear you ask.
The rains have returned; temperatures are rising and the weather looks set fair for the next few days. Surely, grass should be rocketing out of the ground.
And so it should. However, the figures now available are telling a slightly different story.
The combination of reduced milk supplies and a very significant drop in fertiliser sales is proof positive that Irish grass output levels are falling – and indeed are declining very significantly.
In absolute terms, fertiliser sales are down 13.4% on this time last year. But this figure, on its own, does not tell the whole story. The fact is that Irish fertiliser sales have been on the up over recent years.
So, according to my mathematics, this means the actual tonnage of fertiliser put out over recent months are significantly below where we would have been back in 2020 and 2019.
Moreover, given the growth profile of grass, it’s unlikely that we can make up for any shortfall in overall production levels as the 2022 season progresses, no matter how much fertiliser is spread over the coming weeks.
And, of course, there are more animals to feed in the country than has ever been the case up to this point.
‘Don’t say you haven’t been warned‘
On the back of all this, it strikes me that livestock farmers really should be preparing for the winter of 2022/23 right now.
I get the sense that picking-up with farmers having silage to sell later this year could be akin to finding a needle in a haystack. And, whatever spare forage that is kicking around the country could cost a fool’s fortune to get hold of.
Irish farmers are well used to dealing with forage crises. But what makes 2022 different is the fact that the indicators of what is coming down the track are so evident – so early in the year.
So don’t say that you haven’t been warned.
This week’s announced silage scheme is to be welcomed. Not wishing to seem discourteous, but I am sure that it will be particularly endorsed by Minister’ McConalogue’s voting public in Co. Donegal.
The decision not to include dairy farmers within the support measure was the right one to take. They are being pretty well catered for, courtesy of the milk prices currently available.
And there seems every possibility that European dairy markets will remain relatively strong, certainly into the autumn.
So a few words of advice for those farmers committing to the silage scheme: governments, for obvious reasons, do not recognise the ‘cash is king’ approach to doing business, so make sure and keep all the receipts.