MEAL VOUCHERS NOW CRITICAL TO ALLEVIATE FODDER CRISIS ON SUCKLER AND SHEEP FARMS – ICSA  

4 APRIL 2018

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said the fodder crisis is particularly severe for suckler and sheep farmers who do not have a monthly cheque coming in and whose farming enterprises does not involve selling stock at this time of year. “Cash flow is a significant issue for suckler and sheep farmers and with virtually no fodder left to move around the country, meal vouchers to supplement fodder are now essential to alleviate the hardship. This would be limited to those with no monthly cheque and only in respect of normal livestock numbers traditionally kept on such farms.”

ICSA has been arguing that meal vouchers were an essential component to stave off this crisis since last December. According to Mr Kent, “The writing was on the wall at that point as farmers were already under pressure following an atrocious late summer and autumn. Meal vouchers could have offered a better value solution than transporting fodder across the country at huge cost and, at the very, least should have been introduced to work in conjunction with the Fodder Transport Scheme which by itself has had very little impact.”

“We believe that a system could be devised targeted at farmers who have a fodder crisis identified by way of an up to date fodder budget compiled by Teagasc or a private planner. We believe that the amount per farm should be linked to the need identified but it would be likely that the cost could be in the order of €50/suckler cow or €5/sheep. The exact amount required cannot, however, be precisely calculated because we cannot say what the weather will be like for the rest of April.

However, we do know that Met Eireann has today issued a rainfall warning with up to 50mm expected in parts of the country as well as possible flooding. Farmers have no option but to keep cattle housed so the priority now has to be getting energy to those cattle. It’s calamitous that we have got to this point when all the signals pointing to a fodder crisis were evident months ago.”

ICSA suckler chairman John Halley welcomed a statement from Minister Creed this afternoon that the Department of Agriculture’s Early Warning System is fully operational at this time. “This will provide emergency assistance to farmers whose animals are experiencing serious welfare issues and farmers are unable to cope with the situation. I would urge all farmers to use this facility which was set up for precisely the conditions being experienced at present.  We need more support for farm families enduring severe hardship and we must remember that this is not just about animal welfare but the welfare of farm families as well.”

ENDS