Boy, what a spring! The Irish countryside looks more like it has been sprayed with weedkiller than its usual lush self. While temperatures have been warmer the last few days, heavy rain during the week meant that cows and cattle had to be rehoused. We’ve been quite lucky, we’ve had sufficient silage, we got the cows out by day for most days and got half the cattle out for a few weeks. We have spent about ?7,000 more this March on dairy and cattle nuts though than we normally would and are still giving the cows more than double the meal ration they’d normally get at this time of year. That’s ?7K that is being swallowed up in the overdraft or could have gone to the taxman if we’d had it surplus!
And yes, we’re one of the lucky ones. We haven’t lost any cows. Many farmers have lost cattle and cows and as if the deaths weren’t bad enough, they would also have to pay the carcass collector up to ?200 to take away each adult carcass. Many farmers are totally out of fodder and with no grass growth, have hardly anything for their stock to eat. While they should be spending minutes per day herding the cattle, farmers are having to make phone calls to source fodder, fork out money to pay for it, travel to get it and even for those that have fodder, they’re spending time on jobs that shouldn’t be necessary at this time of the year – scraping slats, foddering, liming cubicles, cleaning out and looking out at brown fields for a glimmer of green.
Some farmers are in a very dark place. I wrote a post some time ago when I commented on how NLP helps people to see occurrances as events rather than problems and how the occurrance affects you and your mood depends on how you approach it. It is all very well for me to say look on your fodder shortage and your mounting bills as an ‘event’. Listening to RTE countrywide this morning, they were talking about the new film ‘Pilgrim Hill’ and how many Teagasc workers are more or less having to counsel farmers as they try to decide what to do with limited resources – they were talking about farmers being so constrained and so overwhelmed by events that they are finding it hard to see far into the future, to prevent tunnel vision and being blinkered. Being overwhelmed by events can have that effect and make people feel there is no way out or little way forward.
The high incidence of suicide in Ireland each month makes for startling reading and I really don’t think it is any exaggeration to say that farmers (given the isolation) are probably more at risk than many other sectors in society. ?Loss of animals, little fodder, mounting bills can all add their toll. ?Simon Coveney’s message to banks and co-ops is to be supportive and cut some slack. ?Boherhue co-op bought a pit of silage and distributed it amongst members. Dairygold co-op organised for a load of hay to be imported and 75 more are on the way apparently and is selling it amongst its members. Some co-ops are extending free credit till June.
Farmers are also using twitter to support each other and if there is a silver lining in this harsh spring following a long winter, it is that farmers are supporting each other and also that ‘townies’ and non-farming country folk are becoming much more aware of the effects of the weather. ?Elaine Hall and other farmers have set up #farmersunite hashtag on twitter and using it to advise farmers of where fodder is for sale and to raise morale and awareness. You can read more about #farmersunite here.
Farmers have had bad years before, having had a tough 11 months in a row though makes for tough going.
Hopefully features like this will help people realise that farmers aren’t living high on the hog from EU grants. People think country life is all farmers’ markets and organic carrots. They need to realise how grim it can be. Then farmers can get support from the wider community, as well as from each other.
Thanks Derbhile – yep, grim is right. Stress levels are really high for farmers at the mo – no grass and very little fodder.
My father was a vet, so I’ve some insight into this. Farmers have always had to endure bad times, but they are bred to weather it and they’ll weather this latest storm.
You’re right Derbhile – they will. They could do without the stress at the moment tho. My husband is working 17 hour days at the mo, up at 6 and not in long before midngiht
Lorna, Excellent post as always. We’ve been doing the up and down farmer thing here for over 20 years and calling a tragedy an “event” could make one laugh. My husband and I are lucky in many ways as we broke away from traditional farming 4 years ago and instead of selling our milk to a co-op at set prices, we sell it raw to customers who come direct to our farm. We set our own prices and our debt decreased. Now the state of Illinois has decided raw milk sales must be limited so now spending all our extra money (not much) to fight this. Having small farmer groups to support each other as you and Elaine too is the key to survival. (Along with Faith and Family!)
Thanks Donna, I’ve been following your raw milk saga and while I haven’t been reading all the legal jargon, it’s great to see you getting support and all taking on the big guys 🙂
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