5,000 bales of hay go west with more to follow
Farmers in the southeast have seen more than 5,000 bales of hay, straw and silage go west in the past fortnight.
More will follow in the weeks ahead as farmers in the region continue to support their western and midlands counterparts who have been worst hit by the severe shortage of cattle fodder.
The initiative, which was started in Co Wexford after IFA activist Barty O'Connor proposed the idea at a local meeting of the organisation, resulted in 4,473 round bales of silage, hay and straw being collected in the county, far exceeding expectations.
"We were absolutely surprised and delighted at the response," said the IFA's regional development officer for Wexford, Wicklow and Carlow, Adrian King. "We didn't expect anything like it."
In fact the extent of the response caused its own problems, such as the transport costs involved in getting such a huge amount of fodder to western counties.
However, with more than half the fodder collected destined for Co Clare, sponsorship for the enterprise was secured from Clare Marts. Distribution of the 2,700 bales sent to that county was overseen by Teagasc, which ensured priority was given to those most in need.
The benefits of the project have been twofold for farmers in the west and midlands; not only have there been direct donations of fodder at a critical time, but the scheme has also had a stabilising effect on prices in the areas where fodder is most scarce.
The Wexford initiative, which also resulted in fodder going to Longford, Roscommon, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim and Sligo, is now completed, but the situation will be reviewed in the weeks ahead, said Mr King.
The situation for farmers in the west is exacerbated by the fact that, while those in the east will be able to release cattle on to grass next month, many in the areas worst affected by the weather will have to keep animals indoors and dependent on fodder until as late as mid-May.
In the meantime, other county-to-county donations are continuing. Carlow farmers are helping out their counterparts in Leitrim, while Wicklow producers are sending fodder to Longford and Sligo.
A major drive is also under way in Waterford and Kilkenny, from where farmers have sent about 750 bales to western counties including Limerick and Roscommon. That initiative, sponsored by Golden Vale and Avonmore-Waterford Group, is continuing, said the IFA officer for the counties, John Fitzgerald.
"It's getting an awful lot of guys out of a tight situation," he said.