New €1 million scheme to help farmers import hay and silage

Number of suicides linked with fodder crisis in recent weeks

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has announced a €1 million scheme to fund the transport costs of importing fodder as concerns grew about the escalating crisis.

Worries over the lack of fodder for animals are taking their toll on some farmers with reports of a number of suicides linked to the crisis in recent weeks. The severe winter meant that farmers ran out of hay and silage much quicker than normal and grass growth has been very poor in recent weeks.

Mr Coveney said the scheme would operate through the dairy co-ops and would reduce the cost to farmers of a bale of hay by about one third. Application forms will be available from co-ops in the coming days. "Operating this new scheme through the co-ops is the quickest and most effective way of getting the fodder to those who need it," he said.

Under pressure
In recent days farmers queued to buy hay imported from Britain by co-ops such as Dairygold and Drinagh. A new online network with the Twitter handle @farmersuniteIrl was set up last week to offer support for farmers under pressure and to help farmers source fodder. It already has more than 200 followers.

The €1 million scheme was welcomed by the Irish Farmers' Association and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association. However, ICMSA president John Comer said the scheme was "hopelessly insufficient" and he called on the Minister to immediately apply to the EU Solidarity Fund which allocated aid in disaster situations.

Emergency assistance
Mr Coveney said his department was also providing emergency assistance to farmers whose animals were experiencing serious welfare issues.


Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív had earlier accused Mr Coveney of refusing to acknowledge the fact cattle were starving and dying every day. Knackeries, which dispose of dead animals, have been struggling to meet demand from farmers in recent weeks. On Monday, Cork county councillor Declan Hurley told how he had lost seven cattle to starvation and said he knew farmers who were in worse predicaments.

Mr Coveney said he was meeting senior management in the banks and co-ops today to discuss the situation. He is also meeting the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture tomorrow to update it on the crisis. IFA president John Bryan has appealed to all farmers and their families to support each other.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times