“The country is talking about nothing only Mick Wallace and nonsense like that while there are men in dire straits here”

Connacht Gold has imported more than 160 loads of fodder

Tom Joe McManus, Drumshanbo, collecting fodder brought in from Brighton, England, and distributed to farmers affected by the fodder shortage, at Kiltoghert Co-Op, Co Leitrim on Wednesday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tom Joe McManus, Drumshanbo, collecting fodder brought in from Brighton, England, and distributed to farmers affected by the fodder shortage, at Kiltoghert Co-Op, Co Leitrim on Wednesday. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Kiltoghert Co-op sells everything from weed killer to catering packs of tea bags but farmers weren’t queuing to stock their kitchen larders yesterday.

The long line of tractors, Jeeps and trailers were waiting to get their share of hay from a 40ft lorry that had just arrived from Brighton.

This was about the 10th load of hay brought in by the Connacht Gold co-op in Leitrim since the fodder crisis escalated last month. Connacht Gold has been at the coalface of this crisis because its catchment area in the northwest and west has been hardest hit by the bad weather and lack of grass growth. It has imported more than 160 loads of hay and haylage in recent weeks.

Kiltoghert co-op manager Ursula Crossan said the queue for imported hay was so long one day that gardaí had to direct traffic on the usually quiet Leitrim road. “We’d had such queues in the beginning and people had to be turned away without getting any,” she said. “But now the money has run out for a lot of people. It’s absolutely desperate.”

The pack of 21 small bales costs €125 but the Department of Agriculture’s transport subsidy allows the co-op to sell it for €100. The subsidy is due to end this week but farm organisations have been calling for an extension.

Enda Stenson from Mohill had just bought a pack of hay and was glad to get it.

“Between me and my son we could have 70 cattle in sheds and we have no feeding for them. What do we do? You’d have to put wellingtons on a duck, it’s so wet, and I can’t even put out fertiliser.”

He said farmers in the west of Ireland felt like the forgotten people. “This week the country is talking about nothing only Mick Wallace and nonsense like that while there are men in dire straits here. There was a lot of coverage when the bigger farmers down the south were affected but, by Jesus, the farmers in the west of Ireland are under serious pressure. They have neither money nor fodder.”

Yesterday’s delivery will only last him two days but he was already thinking about next winter. “There are going to be huge consequences down the road. All the extra supplies are gone and the grass growth isn’t there. What’s going to happen next winter?”

Tom Joe McManus from Drumshanbo has been buying fodder for the past two months. He let his cattle out to the fields yesterday “and I was looking at them this morning, waiting at the byre door to get something to eat. The only thing that’s saving me is that I haven’t that much stock.”

He was hoping he could keep the imported hay for later in the year. “But the weather can change very fast. The quality of this hay isn’t hectic but we’ll chance it anyway.”

Liam Burke from Kiltoghert still had not let his cattle out because the ground was so wet. “It’s nearly June now and I never thought I’d see the like of it. I’d normally have them outside on the first of May,” he said. “1985 was the last bad year I remember but it was nothing like this. On a normal year you’d buy hay for a quarter of what they’re charging now.”

It was Joseph Moran’s fourth time to queue for imported hay. He looked at the queue of farmers waiting patiently behind him. “Who could have ever foreseen this?” he asked. “We are queuing for hay from England and it’s nearly June.”