A dairy farmer in Co Wicklow is not sure if he can afford to feed his own family, let alone his cattle, without raising the price of milk and milk products.
A farmer in the Wicklow region has become the poster boy for the price rises that are expected in the dairy sector.
Dairy farmers in the region have been hit with the most dramatic price increases, with the average price of a litre of milk soaring by more than 500pc since the start of the year.
The farmer, who is not named, is part of a group of dairy farmers who are trying to raise the cost of their milk by 20pc to offset the costs of raising cattle, which are estimated to cost between €6,500 and €8,000.
It’s a very tough thing to do, said the farmer, but the price is what it is.
“The price of the milk is the price,” he said.
He’s been selling his milk to the dairy industry for around €2.50 a litres, which he said has helped reduce his family’s budget.
But the increase in milk prices is a real threat to the farmers.
For one thing, the price increases have forced the dairy farmers to sell their cows at much higher prices than they normally would.
According to the latest figures from the Dairy Management Association, the average retail price for a litter of milk rose by more then 10pc last year to €6.50.
While the average farm in the country pays less than €3,000 for a dairy cow, the farmer says that’s just not possible if the milk price rises continue.
With prices rising at such an alarming rate, he’s now selling his cows at a discount of €2,500 a litters.
On top of that, the cost to buy a cow has gone up by 40pc since last year, making it even harder to sell the cow.
And if the price goes up further, the farmers are only able to keep their animals for a couple of years, before they’re able to sell them.
One of the main issues facing dairy farmers is the loss of income due to the increased costs of keeping cattle and dairy cows, which is also affecting their ability to feed their families.
In some cases, the dairy farm can only keep up to half the number of cows they are expecting to sell, while some farmers may be forced to sell fewer than five cows.
“The main issue we are facing is the cost we have to pay to keep up with the price rise,” said the dairy farmer.
I’ve never seen prices go up like this before, said his partner, who asked not to be named.
There are other issues too, he added, including the cost the farmers have to take on in order to maintain their cattle, and the difficulty of buying and selling dairy cattle.
Farmers in the rural area in Wicklow are particularly at risk of the price hikes, as they have little access to credit.
Although the local council has provided some support, such as the extension of a bank holiday, the farming community is struggling to get through the winter months without money.
“We are the ones who have to rely on the bank for everything,” said one farmer.
“It’s been very difficult to get a loan.
It’s been a nightmare,” said his wife.
They are now looking to a loan company that has been able to extend the loan, but their hope is that the bank will also extend the credit to the farm.
If that happens, the family will be able to make a loan to pay for the cost-cutting measures needed to keep the cows alive.
Many of the farmers in Wickliffe are not just struggling with the cost but also the impact of rising milk prices.
Several of them have had to move to remote areas because they no longer have access to a bank.
Despite the rising cost, many farmers are not able to pay their bills, which has forced them to take their cattle off the farm, including their calves.
We are facing a crisis, said one of the family.
“We have to go back to work.
If the farmers don’t make a change, the next one will come.”
With rising milk costs, it’s not just the farmers that are struggling.
Cattle prices are also rising at an alarming pace, with cattle prices in Wickfords most populous area rising by over 80pc since 2013.
Last year, the annual cost of a single calf in the Co Wickliff region was just under €20,000, with dairy farmers spending up to €2 million to raise their animals.
Even before the price increase, many dairy farmers in Co Clare were not able afford to raise calves and dairy calves were sold at a loss.
A recent report by the University of Limerick found that the average cost of raising a calf in Co Leit