The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) is calling on co-ops to continue to offer goodwill to farmers who have been impacted by fodder shortage this spring. Already stressed-out farmers will interpret any March milk price cut as a further kick in the teeth, said IFA National Dairy Committee, chairman Tom Phelan.
Mr Phelan said that co-ops must show their understanding of the extreme hardship and stress levels on farms in the only way that will count for dairy farmers – by holding the March milk price.
Farmers appreciate the support co-ops have given through various fodder initiatives; however, the goodwill generated by these moves will be destroyed by any price cut, he said.
“Farmers have had to contend with unprecedented hardship this spring, after what was an early and long winter. Most have run short, or are altogether out of fodder and are only now – over a month late – seeing ground temperatures that will hopefully allow for some grass growth in the coming days. The stress among farmers who did not get a chance to rest after the hectic calving season is at a dangerous level,” he warned.
“Teagasc has put the reduced profitability for each day that the cows are not grazing at between €2.20 and €3 per cow. Hence for a 100-cow herd, a three-week delay in turn out, for example, would cost the farmer around €5,500. The true nature of the losses may be greater, as some herds have lost more than three weeks worth of grazing since last autumn. Also, they will certainly rise further in the longer term, as fodder production capacity, cow condition and possibly cow fertility also suffer,” he added.
“That’s only the economics; the levels of stress on farms are seriously worrying,” Mr Phelan said.
“In these exceptionally harsh circumstances, farmers need to feel truly supported by their co-ops utilising some of the profits they made last year to hold the March milk price despite lower market returns,” he said.