Livestock farmers under pressure as wet weather takes its toll
- Credit: Su Anderson
Livestock and dairy farmers are under pressure after being hit by feed shortages as a result of wet weather.
They are facing a fodder shortage in the UK and Ireland, as wet conditions and a late spring means they have been unable to turn out stock due to a lack of grass growth and available forage. They have had to use more supplementary feed, creating additional costs.
Suffolk sheep farmer and National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Regional Livestock Board member Andrew Foulds said it was a “worrying situation”.
“A lot of people across the country need to get their cattle out onto grass and they can’t because it’s too wet,” he said. “Farmers will help others who may be running short, and we are used to dealing with weather extremes, but we are fed up with this cold, wet spell. We all want some sunshine,”
The NFU is relaunching its Fodder Bank to help members find animal feed for their farms, or sell any surplus to assist others, in response to the shortages. The matching service links feed, farmers and hauliers online.
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Former Essex farm manager Adam Scott, NFU East’s livestock adviser, said last year’s weather, with a wet spring followed by a difficult summer for both livestock and arable farmers had taken its toll.
Last August was the wettest month of the year, and straw yields in particular were badly affected, meaning some people will be starting to run short. He believes the main shortage at the moment will be around straw for bedding, rather than forage for animal feed.
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Farmers are hoping for a warmer, dry spell so the grass and crops start growing. As the land starts to dry out, farmers can turn their animals out again.
Ed Ford, vice chair of Forage Aid, which is co-ordinating the Fodder Bank with the NFU, said it was a shortage, rather than a crisis, but better weather appeared to be on the horizon at the weekend.
NFU president Minette Batters, who is discussing the problem with industry and government, said: “It is vital that government lends its support to ensure farmers are able to continue managing their businesses effectively, which means producing the food that feeds the nation. I am hearing from farmers who say that the sustained wet weather has meant very few have been able to turn out their livestock and this has led to increasing difficulty sourcing available forage.”