Potential fodder crisis on horizon

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The prolonged wet weather has resulted in a potential shortage of fodder or poor quality silage for some farms.

In light of these developments, CAFRE has organised a series of farmer meetings in the west and north of Northern Ireland to provide guidance for farmers on how best to manage feeding arrangements over the coming months.

Senior technologists will explain how to assess fodder stocks and review the options to reduce stock or replacing fodder with alternative feeds.

They will look at the relative value of purchased fodder/feed and the effect this may have on financial margins.

A vet will also outline the likely health and welfare issues that may arise and the best way to prevent these. Rural Support will be present at all the events to outline the services and support they can provide to farmers affected by the weather conditions.

The weather has caused major issues across the province with heavy rain falls leaving ground saturated and many farmers having to deal with livestock that has been housed for months.

It is against that difficult background that the meetings will take place.

The meetings will be held at the following venues, each starting at 7.30pm:

Omagh - Silverbirch Hotel - Monday 20 November

Enniskillen - Enniskillen Campus, CAFRE - Thursday 23 November

Coleraine - Lodge Hotel - Tuesday 28 November

But just how bad is the fodder crisis facing farmers across Northern Ireland. According to DAERA officials, the regions most affected are in the west and north of the province. Counties Antrim, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone are have been impacted most. The locations of the winter feeding events have been arranged to reflect this demand.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “The situation is still unclear, as the recent spell of better weather has enabled many farmers to salvage some fodder. However the quality of material would be less than in normal years. Therefore, it is important that farmers assess stocks of fodder and current stock demands.

“Farmers should be encouraged to make use of DAERA Calculators and attend these forthcoming winter feeding events.

“As the issues differ for individual farms and localities, remedial actions will be specific to individual farm situations.”

Commenting on the current fodder situation, Ulster Farmers’ Union President Barclay Bell said: “We are monitoring the situation closely. The localised flooding and prolonged wet weather has put major pressure on winter feeding.

“Many farmers had to house cattle in August and struggled to get silage cut.

“Difficulties are emerging. Both fodder quantity and quality are likely to be an issue in the coming weeks, and as winter progresses we should get clearer picture of what we are up against. The UFU continues to work closely with DAERA and CAFRE on this.”

United Feeds’ advisors have been assessing forage stocks on a number of farms over recent days. Initial indications would suggest that farmers in Co Down may have enough fodder to get them through the winter.

“But the exact opposite is the case across large swathes of Fermanagh and Tyrone.

“We are advising customers to take control of the situation now,” confirmed company sales manager Clarence Calderwood.

“And the first step in this process is for farmers to carry out an accurate assessment of what fodder stocks are available to them right now.”