Many Tipperary farmers are under serious financial pressure and suffering severe fodder shortages due to the freezing weather conditions of recent weeks that has forced them to keep their livestock indoors much longer this spring.
The coldest March in years has taken a heavy toll on the county’s thousands of farmers, who are desperately trying to source extra supplies of silage, hay and straw as grass growth has stopped due to the low temperatures.
An increase in livestock deaths and sickness due to the cold weather conditions is adding to farmers’ difficulties.
South Tipperary IFA Chairman George Mason has joined with IFA National President John Byran in calling on co-ops, feed mills and banks to continue to support their farmer customers through this crisis and urged them to do everything to ensure adequate feed and cash flow is provided to assist farmers cope with winter fodder and cash flow difficulties arising from the bad spring and bad weather since last summer.
Mr Mason, who represents 2,500 South Tipperary farmers, said it was the worst March in a long, long time.
Livestock would normally be let out to grass from the first week in February onwards around Ardfinnan where he farms but two months on and farmers were still feeding stock indoors and grass growth had stopped.
Demand for feed from livestock feed merchants was up between 25 and 30 per cent.
“Farmers had to buy in four times the amount of meal this March compared to March last year. It’s a huge cost no matter whether you have 20 animals or 200 animals,” he explained.
“Feed rations cost anything from €250 to €300 per tonne. A tonne doesn’t go very far when you have a lot of animals. You could have €1000 spent in a week and nothing to show for it.”
He urged farmers facing financial and fodder difficulties to contact their Teagasc adviser first for assistance.
Mr Mason pointed out that in South Tipperary and other counties, the IFA in conjunction with Teagasc, had set up a special fodder project that was connecting farmers trying to buy fodder with those selling.
Independent Tipperary North TD Michael Lowry has called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to ensure that any outstanding EU and government payments owed to farmers are paid out immediately.
“Many farmers in Tipperary are being brought to their knees by the adverse weather conditions, a situation that is not helped by the fact that many are still awaiting payments through schemes such as the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS) and Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS),” said deputy Lowry.
Deputy Lowry said the impact of these weather conditions on farmers cannot be underestimated and will land a severe blow to the income of the county’s farming families this year.
Many farmers were being forced to sell off stock cheaply because they couldn’t afford to maintain their current feed costs, he recounted.
“I have met with countless farmers in my constituency, who are despairing over the poor weather conditions and the knock-on impact this has had on income and work load. I have also been contacted by farming groups about the situation,” the TD added.
George Mason, meanwhile, said he and other farmers are hoping temperatures will improve over the next week and that grass will finally start growing again.
A spokesman for Met Eireann reported the cold weather will continue until the weekend though temperatures will gradually rise by about a degree a day between now and Friday.
Rain will move in across the country on Saturday bringing change away from the cold easterly winds to warmer temperatures next week. Temperatures will be between 8 and 11 degrees Celsius in the early days of next week, which is more normal for this time of year.