15th May, 2013
Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher has suggested that suckler farmers who are in difficulty with scarce grass and a lack of fodder should consider early weaning of calves. “Calves born in the autumn can certainly be weaned, even calves born around Christmas time can be weaned. The farmer can then prioritise these weaned calves for grass and for concentrate feeding rather than feeding concentrates to the cows in an effort to keep them in milk. Weaning calves a little earlier than usual worked very well last year in wet weather.”`
“The calves will need less meal than many farmers are giving to cows and at the same time, the cow will be under less nutritional stress if she is not rearing a calf. She is also likely to go back in calf easier if she is not trying to rear a calf in circumstances where grass and fodder is scarce.”
Mr Kelleher, who is also ICSA’s West Cork chair, suggested that in cases of severe difficulty, farmers could consider selling young calves off cows. “It’s better to get €400 or more for the calf and cut your losses if the cost of buying in more and more fodder and meals is putting too much financial pressure on you. Obviously, these suggestions only apply to farmers who are under pressure with feeding animals and where costs are getting unsustainably high. However, there is no doubt that there are many farmers on the ground in immense difficulty due to adverse weather and growing conditions.”
Mr Kelleher is calling on banks, co-ops and merchants to show understanding of the plight that farmers are in by not withholding credit from any farmer who needs to buy feed for their animals. He again called on the Minister to acknowledge the scale of the crisis.
He commended the West Cork co-ops of Bandon, Lisavaird, Drinagh and Barryroe who have already committed to supplying ration to all farmers including suckler farmers, while being willing to discuss flexible payment arrangements.