Farmers should make no apologies for highlighting the exceptional wet weather that is driving up costs and anxiety on farms across the country.

The sector most affected currently is probably the tillage sector, because if this wet weather continues, they may not get any spring crops in the ground.

However, each of the livestock sectors are burning more and more profits every day. I’ve said it here before that if any other sector of the economy had to endure the hardship that farmers put up with, there would be politicians flocking to waterlogged fields for photo opportunities with the promise of significant financial aid right across the country.

A farmer’s field is their asset to make money the same way as a shopkeeper has a shelf.

Let’s put the current weather in context – firstly, hard, cold and wet weather in March and into the first week of April is not unusual. However, exceptionally wet weather since last October with no let up is very unusual.

A lot of farmers in the top half of the country are prepared for this type of weather and have slurry storage and feed stocks in place as a matter of principle.

However, I sat beside one Cavan farmer at a meeting this week, who held off spreading some slurry when he had a two day opportunity in February and he is very sorry he held off now.

He thought he was doing the right thing to hold his nutrients closer to warmer weather, but now his fields are waterlogged and he is weeks from spreading.

It shows how farming and the weather can make a fool of the best of operators.

Secondly, the notion that there is no feed on farms or that farmers are overstocked is also a nonsense. There is plenty of grass on farms, but it’s just too wet to make good use of it, and the damage during grazing would be counterproductive.

Fodder lesson

Many farmers have learned the fodder lesson the hard way after running tight in 2013 and 2018. They have prepared for same.

However, this wet weather reinforces the insurance option – an extra pit of silage is almost an absolute necessity more so than a cost to the farm.

Thirdly, replacing the forage being used at the moment is going to need a significant push at farm level for 2024. When the rain does relent, nutrients are going to be essential to maximise growth potential in the first half of the year to try and rebuild reserves.

Making significant volumes of feed reserves in the second half of the year can be very difficult, especially if you get a long dry spell following a long wet spell.

Buying poor quality feed is a full disaster for any farmer, both environmentally and financially. Not maximising grass growth last year and inappropriately high stocking rates on some farms are proving very costly decisions these days.

Drystock farmers may need urgent cashflow support to help with next winter right now.

There are a couple of things that are clear – gathering the national fodder group at short notice when farmers exert pressure on the Department for it to meet in an emergency is not the right way to do business.

The group should meet regularly, and have a rolling set of measures available to them to gauge feed stocks and feed demand as a routine. Ground conditions and the cumulative effects of poor weather should also be a rolling measure available to the group.

The price and availability of feed and fertiliser aligned to farmers’ margins are important measures that also should be a key component of an ongoing set of measures available to the group. It has to be a proactive resource for farmers and the industry to anticipate challenges rather than be reactive.


Lower and upper thresholds within these measures listed above, should drive decisions within this group and also trigger any available compensation to farmers.

Remember, compensation is simply reinvested on farms into more feed or nutrients so they can produce food.

Yes we must recognise a number of the co-ops and merchants have announced €30 per tonne rebate on feed purchased in March. However, the relative cost of feed is still way out of kilter with what grain farmers get for grain or imported stocks.

Farm inspections need to be curtailed given the mental and physical toll on farmers. Support is needed now more than ever. Stress and anxiety around inspections might be a bridge too far for many farmers. Real practical decisions are needed right now.