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Latest: Importation of fodder supplies could begin as soon as tomorrow, says Michael Creed

Update 6.09pm: The Agriculture Minister says the importation of fodder supplies should begin as soon as tomorrow.

Michael Creed confirmed earlier that his department will support the importation of animal feed, to prevent livestock from starving.

Michael Creed

Months of wet weather has meant that many farmers have completely run out of fodder.

The import scheme was announced by Minister Creed after a meeting with the main agricultural co-ops this afternoon.

"The plan is to work through the co-operative structure," said the Minister.

"It is the co-ops who are involved in the importation, the sourcing and the contract arrangements for the implementation.

"We will be subsequently reimbursing some of the transport costs associated with this. And that is a detail we will probably be in a position to announce tomorrow."

Update 4.27pm: Officials will develop scheme to support importation of fodder, says Michael Creed

The Department of Agriculture says fodder will need to be imported again after the recent bad weather.

Storm Ophelia in October and Storm Emma at the end of February means fodder supplies are at an all-time low across much of the country.

Minister Michael Creed says officials will develop a scheme to support this importation after meeting with the main co-ops this afternoon.

Some farmers say they are breaking point - while there are reports of some animals starving in parts of the country.

Farmer and News Correspondent with the Irish Farmers Journal, Hannah Quinn-Mulligan says it is an unacceptable situation

"Spring has been prolonged. Summer is delayed. Turn out is delayed.

"The housing pressure on farmers trying to keep animals fed is intense.

"What we're looking at is a situation where there is not enough grass to feed animals to let them out. Where you should have grass for three cows, there is no not enough even to feed one.

Update 2pm: Fianna Fáil calls for urgent action to tackle fodder crisis

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said that Agriculture Minister Michael Creed needs to take urgent action to tackle the serious fodder crisis affecting farmers across the country.

Storm Ophelia in October and Storm Emma at the end of February means fodder supplies are at an all-time low across much of the country.

Minister Creed says his department may consider importing fodder if required - but claims there are still enough supplies available.

He is meeting with officials from the main co-ops this afternoon as the crisis continues.

Deputy McConalogue says the Minister’s failure to address the situation has had a direct impact on the severe conditions affecting farms.

“Despite warnings from my party and farm organisations as far back as September last year, the Minister ignored farmers and failed to take any concrete action to address the situation. As the bad weather continued through the winter, it increased pressure on fodder stocks as animals were being kept indoors and feed was being used up.

“Now that the crisis has reached emergency levels, it is not acceptable for the Minister to continue with his hands-off approach”, said Deputy McConalogue.

“Even this morning on Morning Ireland the Minister seemed to contradict himself. On the one hand he said there was enough fodder stock in the country, but then admitted that fodder may have to be imported. The reality on the ground is that moves are already underway to bring in fodder from other countries – Dairygold is expecting its first delivery tomorrow.

“Minister Creed needs to get on top of the situation and ensure that his Department begins co-ordinating the transport and importation of fodder so that it gets to those who need it promptly. A fodder voucher scheme must also be introduced so that farmers can receive financial help to afford to buy the fodder they need to get through the next few weeks.

“Many simply don’t have the finances after an exceptionally long winter to meet the cost of buying in additional fodder.

“I have also contacted the Chairman of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee seeking an emergency meeting with Minister Creed so that he can outline a clear plan to deal with this crisis.

“This situation was forecast more than 6 months ago, but as a result of the Minister’s refusal to act, we are now in an emergency situation. Farms are under threat and the Minister has a responsibility to act”.

Lakeland Dairies has set up a dedicated fodder helpline for its milk suppliers on 042 969 4341.

Update 2pm: Animals beginning to starve as fodder crisis worsens

Animals across the country are reportedly starving as the fodder crisis deepens.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture are meeting with the main co-ops again today to discuss their response.

Minister Michael Creed has also announced a national review of fodder supplies following months of wet weather.

Farmer and News Correspondent with the Irish Farmers Journal Hannah Quinn-Mulligan says it is a dire situation.

"I've been talking to vets, and vets have been telling me that they go into yards and animals are hungry, and we have to think of the mental strain that's putting on farmers," she said.

"No-one wants to see hungry animals. I could not imagine, as a farmer myself, anything worse than listening to animals bawling with hunger."

- Digital desk