THERE is real concern among farmers that there could be a fodder shortage this winter, Markethill farmer James Speers has said.
Mr Speers, who is president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, said farmers are feeling the strain after the unusually prolonged spell of dry, warm weather.
And he is advising them to plan well ahead to calculate the amount of fodder they will need.
He said: “Farmers I have been speaking to are worried about the lack of grass growth and having no feed supplements going into the winter.
“There has been no growing for around five weeks so many are having to use the first cut of silage to feed animals outside on the ground, rather than saving it for the winter.
“This not only has a detrimental effect on business costs but also on mental health.”
He explained: “We had an atrocious winter and a very bad spring with late growth. Then in May, it was very good and farmers were out sowing crops.
“There was a first cut of silage in the second week of June and since then we have had a dry period. If we have a bad autumn, the farmers will have to feed animals early.”
As for last Saturday’s torrential rainfall, Mr Speers said it still wasn’t enough. “You wouldn’t see it on the ground,” he said.
“We don’t know when the rain will come. The worst case scenario is that it will come in the middle of August and it won’t stop and we won’t get the second silage cut done.”
Mr Speers advised farmers to take stock of what livestock they have on their farm and plan ahead. “Don’t wait until the last minutes. Use a fodder calculator and see how much feed you are going to need,” he said.
Mr Speers’ comments echo those of Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ivor Ferguson who says the union has received a number of calls from farmers worried that grass yields are down across the countryside and the impact this will have on costs and cash flow.
He said the weather was posing challenges not just for fodder but for vegetable and cereal crops as well, with farmers having to irrigate fields as best they can to save crops.
Mr Ferguson said fodder calculators are available through DAERA’s website and farmers can also contact the department and CAFRE for help and guidance.
He added: “One thing we know as farmers is that we can’t control the weather. We have to make the best of what comes our way and manage our businesses accordingly.
“But that doesn’t make it any easier or any less stressful. I would encourage farmers to be aware of their own mental health and ask for help if they need it.”