are facing in the coming period is a far wider and all-encompassing
stress testing process, incorporating not only fi nancial stresses but
also physical, nutritional, environmental and psychological stress
testing of our livestock management systems. There are few, if any,
precedents for what we will experience over the next eight months.
While we have had fodder shortfalls, droughts, increased production
costs and all of the personal stresses brought on by these and other
issues, we have not been subjected to a confl uence of these stress
factors all appearing, to a greater or lesser extent, at the same time.
On top of these stresses we have the naysayers and critics just waiting
to latch onto any and every opportunity to denigrate our unique
system of grass-based livestock production. The contradictions in
their criticisms are self evident. Nevertheless, we must now show
conclusively that Irish livestock farming is sustainable, environmentally
benign and a model for food production worldwide. There is nothing
to suggest that the outcomes of the various fodder censuses taken
during the summer will be improved on in the coming months.
It is simply too late in the season to make up the kind of ground
necessary to turn a 30 per cent fodder defi cit into a much more
manageable fi gure. Grass growth has returned to many parts of the
country and should facilitate an extended autumn grazing period.
There are also localised areas in the south midlands and southeast
where the drought, at the end of last month, was still in an acute
phase. Those farms will be under particular pressure in the coming
winter period. Across the board, we will have to plan our winter feed
regimes with only 70 per cent of our normal fodder stocks, at best.
There are examples of farms in much worse predicaments. That is
surely unprecedented. It can be managed. It must be managed and,
with all the necessary supports put in place, it will be managed. All of
those supports require our farm advisory services, public and private,
our regulatory authorities, government agencies, the agri-services
sector, farming representative organisations and the fi nance houses
to be proactive and have a full understanding that nothing less than
the entire reputation of the Irish livestock industry is at stake. As ever,
the weather will dictate how well this national e ort will work. An
extended spell of temperate weather without too much rain would
reduce the fodder requirements for the indoor period. It cannot be
relied on but would bring some relief. A major substitution programme
for our normal forage based diet will be complex and costly. All of
the necessary advice must be readily available and used by individual
farmers. We have already seen our advisory services being extremely
proactive in this regard. Extended fi nance terms and conditions will
be necessary. Our co-ops are already to be commended in this
regard. The positive utterances of the fi nance houses will be put to
the test in providing tangible and fl exible support to their customers.
Government, at a minimum, has delivered regulatory fl exibility for
fertiliser and manure spreading dates. More will be expected and
necessary in the coming months. Forward EU payments are also
helping to alleviate cash fl ow problems.
Ultimately, farmers must take responsibility for their own businesses.
We have a right to demand and expect all possible support measures,
because, ultimately, there is a shared responsibility to get us through
to next spring with the reputation of our livestock sector preserved
10 Business News
12 Interview: Sharon McGuinness
16 Interview: James Healy
87 Management Hints
92 Machinery News
102 Farm Safety
107 Rural Life
110 Very End
AILABLE ONLY THROUGH