Survey: Geographic variation of fodder shortage brought to light

A survey carried out on dairy farmers recently found that more than 75% of respondents did not have sufficient fodder for the winter, though this varied dramatically depending on geographic location.

Over 400 dairy farmers attended the AIB-sponsored Irish Grassland Association (IGA) Dairy Summer Tour which took place in west Cork last week.

A survey taken from 160 of those in attendance identified that nine in 10 dairy farmers had completed a fodder budget.

Less than 25% had sufficient fodder reserves in place for the coming winter, with significant regional variation noted.

Almost 85% of those surveyed from Connacht/Ulster suggested that they had sufficient reserves. This number reduced dramatically in the Leinster and Munster areas – with 20% of those from Leinster suggesting that they have sufficient reserves, while the figure reduced to 13% for those from Munster.

Of those who do not have sufficient reserves, almost half identified that they had a deficit of greater than 25%, while 8% identified that they had a deficit in excess of 50%.

75% of farmers are currently eating into existing winter fodder supplies by feeding grass silage.

This is just one of a number of strategies being implemented on farm to deal with the current challenges. A number of supply-orientated strategies are being implemented and considered on farm at present.

Over 70% of farmers were feeding or planning to feed straights, while 20% of farmers identified that they were going to sow a forage crop and a similar number suggested that they were going to purchase wholecrop/maize.

And almost 50% of farmers said they were planning to sell stock to reduce demand.

From a financial perspective, almost 75% of farmers suggested that they should be able to cope with the financial impact of the drought from cash flow, while 25% suggested that short-term bank cash flow support would be required.

Speaking after the event, Tadhg Buckley – head of the agri sector at AIB – said: “It is encouraging that many farmers who attended the IGA Dairy Summer Tour have completed a fodder budget and are working to reduce their deficits on farm.

“The regional impact of the drought is highlighted in the results, with farmers in Munster and Leinster more affected that those in Connacht/Ulster.

Last weekend’s rain was very welcome. However, it will be some time before grass growth rates return to normal levels.

“We are encouraging our farming customers to determine how the additional costs associated with the drought are likely to affect their individual farm systems and to engage with us if support is required.”

George Ramsbottom, IGA organising committee and Teagasc, said: “Both of our tour hosts found themselves short of winter forage but sourced forage from outside the farm to fill the shortfall.

“We urge farmers across the country to establish what the winter forage situation is on their farms and where deficits are identified, to put a plan in place now rather than later in the autumn.”