The harvesting of up to 1,000 bales of silage began at Shannon Airport this morning, with work beginning around 10:00am.

Contractors rolled onto the 400ac Shannon Airport site this morning to begin three days of harvesting. These bales are set to be delivered to farmers across western counties facing fodder shortages.

The first loads began to depart the airport on articulated lorries from 12:00pm today to a number of regional locations for distribution, with some more locally-based farmers arriving directly at the airport to collect bales for their own and neighbours’ animals.

Speaking from Shannon, the president of the Irish Farmers' Association, Joe Healy, said: “These bales are a godsend and a life-saver; [it's] the difference between farmers going to bed feeling very stressed and farmers going to bed happy knowing that their animals have enough for tonight and tomorrow and next week.

Normally it's farmers helping farmers - but for the likes of Shannon to come in and offer this, it shows the goodwill of Shannon Airport towards the farming community.

Having opened up the airfield to the local farming community during the fodder crisis of 2013, the airport regretted that farmers were faced with another challenge of this magnitude so soon, according to Shannon Airport’s director of operations, Niall Maloney.

But, he stressed, they hadn’t to think twice about responding.

Commenting on the operation, he said: “We were approached by the local farming community to say there is a crisis, which we're all aware of, and if we could help. There’s only one answer you can give and that is ‘absolutely yes’.

“Back in 2013 we were able to get 1,600 round bales from four days or so of cutting, but this time around we are going to have a shorter programme - probably over three days at most - that will hopefully carry some of the worst-hit farmers in this region through.

"From talking to the local IFA, it is really going to support the local farmers in dire need of this product for the next couple of days," he added.

'Carry them over'

Meanwhile, among the farmers who came to collect bales directly from the airport was Joe O’Connell from Parteen, Co. Clare.

Speaking from the airfield, he said: “This is important because there are people with a lot of damp land around us. It will just carry them over, until we get a fine week and it will be OK again.

My son is milking cows and I have sucklers. We had to put in the cows by night since last September and they've been in since. We had a lot of extra fodder but, with the long winter, we’ve ran out now and it has cost us a lot of money with feed and meal.

“I’ve been getting calls this morning about this and I will be bringing this load back for my own and neighbours’ farms," he concluded.