Yet another silage crisis confronts suckler farmers in the west

This week’s heavy rain and cold temperatures have, most definitely, drawn down the curtain on the 2017 silage season.

In fact, this was the reality for farmers in the west many weeks ago.

So, yet again, the spectre of a long winter with the prospect of a ‘hand-to-mouth’ feeding season beckons for these beleaguered producers.

Actually, such a phrase does not do justice to the scale of the fodder crisis now facing livestock farmers along Ireland’s entire Atlantic seaboard.

It would be bad enough if this were the case every now and then. But for many suckler herdowners; we are now talking about a Groundhog Day scenario.

In four of the last five years, challenging silage making conditions construed to make life almost unbearable for these farmers when it came to surviving the winters that followed.

And it’s the suckler sector that will be hardest hit by the challenges that lie ahead.

Sheep farmers have received some respite – courtesy of their recent welfare payments. Besides, ewes and store lambs can be wintered outdoors most years.

No, it’s suckler producers who will bear the brunt of the additional feeding costs that are to be incurred within the livestock sectors this winter. To say that they need a ‘dig out’ is an understatement of some magnitude.

So now it’s over to Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

If he felt the sheep industry was deserving of a welfare support vehicle; then the same case can be made ‘in spades’ for the suckler sector.

There may well be enough silage to meet Ireland’s needs as a whole over the coming months. But, as things stand, livestock farmers in the west will be forced to put their hands in their pockets to buy the additional forage stocks they require.

Many also face the prospect of feeding additional meals this winter. This, again, comes at a very significant cost. Such a scenario is grossly unfair.

These farmers represent the backbone of Ireland’s beef industry. On the back of another atrocious summer, they need additional support. And they need it now.

Back when Eamon O’Cuiv was Fianna Fail agriculture spokesperson; he took great delight in reminding the then agricultural minister, Simon Coveney, about the under-spend that had been notched up – courtesy of the various support and farm development schemes of the time.

Assuming that this state-of-affairs is the norm; it may well be that Michael Creed could, quite easily, find the money required to fund a forage support scheme for suckler farmers over the coming months.

If so, he needs to start ‘writing a few cheques’ with immediate effect.