Serious problems with slurry storage are beginning to emerge on intensively stocked farms across the south and east of the country.
With between two to three times the normal rainfall levels having fallen in February, contractors and farmers are being forced to move slurry between storage tanks on farms in an effort to ease the pressure. Ground conditions were described as atrocious in most areas this week in the wake of storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge.
ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe said there was hardly a field dry enough to leave cows out in south Cavan or north Meath. "I haven't a field dry enough to leave a lame cow out," he said.
It was a similar story right across the country. Met Éireann figures show that three times the normal level of rainfall for February fell in some parts of the country.
In Athenry, 249mm of rain fell in February, compared to a mean level of 88mm. In Moorepark rainfall levels for the month were double normal at 153mm, while in Grange the level recorded was 157mm compared to a mean of 60mm.
The forecast for the week ahead is for cold and hard wintry weather, with further rain coming in from the southwest later in the week. The hope now is that the drier and colder conditions this week will enable farmers to get slurry away. While George Ramsbottom of Teagasc accepted that ground conditions were extremely poor, he said three or four days of dry weather at this time of the year could provide contractors enough time to get a sizeable amount of slurry spread.
However, he conceded that any hope of farmers getting stock out on land is slim, with this spring likely to be the latest in years.
The poor weather is also taking a toll on tillage farms, with virtually no ploughing done to date. This is putting huge pressure on cereal growers, with the sector already reeling from desperate sowing conditions for winter crops and around 70,000ha of additional spring crops to be sown over the next two months.
Meanwhile, there is growing pressure on the Government to prevent the re-occurrence of severe flooding on the Shannon. Over 6,000ac of farmland in the Shannon Basin and south Galway is currently flooded.