Thursday 29 September 2016

Grazing targets hit by 'atrocious' conditions

Published 01/03/2016 | 02:30

Flooded fields at Shannonbridge in County Offaly
Flooded fields at Shannonbridge in County Offaly

'Atrocious' ground conditions have persisted across much of the country this spring, despite large covers of grass being available for grazing.

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The heavy rainfalls that have seen most of the country receive double the average level over the last three months has continued right up to the end of February, with up to 60mm falling in parts of Munster on Friday.

"Ground conditions are atrocious," said Teagasc's grass expert, Michael O'Donovan.

"We've had three days in February where an inch of rain fell each day. That's why we've only 12-18pc of the area grazed so far, when we would be targeting 20-25pc to be grazed by now."

Higher than average temperatures over the last three months have resulted in large covers of grass building up on farms, but without dry enough conditions to get it grazed.

"Soil temperatures are good, and were as high 8.5C in December. But the covers of 1,400-2,000kg/ha of drymatter that have been built up are beginning to die back, and really they need to be grazed in the next two weeks to prevent it setting back grass growth even further," said Mr O'Donovan.

Data from Teagasc's PastureBase shows that growth rates are on a par with last year, but Met Eireann figures show that rainfall amounts for December, January and February are over double long-term averages.

Meanwhile, farmers are being encouraged to attend a nationwide series of flooding consultation meetings.

The National Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management group is hosting meetings in the southeastern region in Inistioge, Graiguenamanagh, Mountmellick, Rathdowney, Portloise, Freshford, Portarlington and Daingean over the next week.

This is the fifth stage of a seven-part process to decide how resources will be spent on managing flooding throughout the country over the coming years.

Preliminary risk and mapping consultations have already been completed, with options now being presented to the public for the first time. The process was started by the OPW in 2011.

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