Sunday 24 September 2017

At long last ... farmers make hay while the sun shines

Harvesting silage
Harvesting silage
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

HIGHER temperatures and summer sunshine have lifted the mood among farmers and boosted their fortunes after months of desperation.

Harvesting of this year's silage crop, described as the most important crop in a generation, has finally begun, albeit several weeks late.

Farmers on dry land are only now beginning to emerge from the grip of a nationwide fodder shortage.

Appalling weather conditions over the past 12 months resulted in all existing feed being used up by March and farmers were forced to rely on imported hay, silage and maize from Britain, France and Holland.

The crisis has cost farmers more than €1bn in animal losses, additional concentrate feed and imported fodder.

There is now a major drive on to ensure there will be enough fodder saved for next winter to avoid the prospect of farmers facing a shortage again next spring.

Liam Roche was one of the first farmers in the country to save silage in the past week.

Milking 170 dairy cows at Ballybeg, close to Mitchelstown, Co Cork, Mr Roche employed local contractor PJ Crotty to cut 97 acres of silage. His crop yielded between eight and 10 tonnes per acre of top quality silage and the farmer intends to cut another 64 acres later this summer.

Mr Crotty said silage yields were back by as much as 40pc in the earliest crops, although quality was excellent. The silage harvest is running three weeks behind at the moment but is expected to really kick into action from next week.

However, many farms are still too wet and silage harvesting will be delayed by four to six weeks.

Farmers in parts of north Cork, Kerry, Limerick, as well as the west and northwest of the country, are still caught in the throes of the fodder and weather crisis, with little hope of harvesting silage for several weeks.

The national agricultural advisory body Teagasc has warned that the country is facing a shortfall of 30pc in fodder stocks for next winter.

Irish Independent

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