Eddie O’Malley at his farm in Cappamore |PICTURE: Michael Cowhey
TO PARAPHRASE the words of Gerry Adams, the fodder crisis “hasn’t gone away you know”.
While the national media spotlight has disappeared, locals across County Limerick continue to struggle.
The situation was beginning to improve after the few dry days last week. Then more heavy rain fell on Sunday and Monday. The Maigue in Bruree on Tuesday morning looked like white water rapids the flood was so heavy.
At least there is grass growth but it isn’t much use when it can’t be grazed as land is still sopping. In other jobs, workers would be rewarded for their forbearance through a high stress and taxing period but milk price drops and steady beef prices have rubbed salt in open wounds.
Many farmers will see themselves in Eddie O’Malley. At one stage the Cappamore man didn’t sleep for 48 hours.
The dairy man milking 150 cows has been out of his own silage since the second week of March.
“We would normally have the cows out in the middle of March to April 1. That would be our turnout dates. April 1 would be a bad year. I’ve never had cows housed in April before. Cows are in since October 1. I started using bales in the last week of September which is unprecedented as well,” said Eddie, aged in his late forties.
The fodder crisis has cost him over €21,000 to date.
“I doubled the concentrates and had to buy in haylage. I’m feeding seven bales a day which was €35 a bale so €245 multiplied by 30 days is €7,350” said Eddie, who was speaking on Monday.
The output reduction from not having cows out on grass is about 600 litres a day which leaves him €6,840 out of pocket. Eddie didn’t have a vet in the yard in February or March but one has been out nearly every day in April as cows just need grass. When he added it all up on Monday it came to €20,790 for the the previous 30 days.
The fact that Eddie describes himself as “one of the lucky ones” shows just how bad the situation is.
“There are people worse off than me. I was lucky I got top quality fodder from Cashel. It was people who got middling fodder and they had to double up on concentrates.
“A lot of fellows will still be paying for this in 2019. There are fellows hard pressed with repayments who invested in their farms. They are pushed to the pin of their collars and on top of that you have co-ops reducing prices at an alarming rate,” said Eddie, who is married to Jennifer
Dairygold confirmed this week it has reduced its March milk price by 2c/l to 32c/l.
The co-op says the reduction is “regrettable but unavoidable as farm gate milk prices continue to be well ahead of market returns”.
However, a special weather/fodder relief payment of 2c/L plus VAT, on all March milk supplied – including fixed price milk schemes - will be paid.
Kerry announced a base price of 32c/l including VAT for March milk. This is a reduction of 2c/l from the 34c/ given for February milk.
In line with Kerry’s milk price contract commitment, the processor will pay a 1.5c/L bonus on all milk produced between January 1 and March 31.
Milk included in fixed milk price contracts will not be eligible for the top-up.
The price cuts are a further hammer blow. At one stage Eddie said he didn’t sleep for 48 hours.
“I came in for something to eat, I put my head down on the table and fell asleep. It was between calving and trying to keep the whole thing going. That is the way it is. It is 18 hours a day since January 25 when they started calving.”
Despite having a dry farm, cows would wreck the place if Eddie put them out but he has no choice after this Wednesday as all his bought-in fodder is gone.
“Hopefully the weather at the weekend will come right.”