Farmers facing moisture deficit as good weather takes its toll

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farmers in some parts of the country are facing possible moisture deficits as the good weather continues.

A meeting of the Teagasc-led Fodder Crisis group heard that all first cut silage should be done by the end of June, but farmers are now facing a possible moisture deficit in parts of the country.

A first cut of silage, by the end of June, allows farmers to redress any issues or shortages they might have in July.

However, farmers in some parts of the country are facing drought conditions with soil moisture deficits on the cards if the good weather continues into next week.

Met Eireann has said that parts of the country are now experiencing soil moisture deficits of between 30mm and 60mm.

It is predicting that the dry weather will continue into the early days of next week with most of any rain coming from localised heavy showers.

Teagasc Head of Livestock Systems, Padraig French, told the meeting that while in the short term grass growth is very high, with the past six weeks seeing very good growth and most farms seeing 80kg of growth a day, the country is not hitting a moisture deficit yet, but it is getting close to it.

He said that another week of good weather see a problem on drier soils and grass growth will slow down and farmers will have to react fast.

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He advised farmers to continue any current rotations and to keep monitoring covers.

"When you see growth slowing down, then react and then drop stocking rate or look at supplementation."

On whether farmers should supplement feed now, or allow cattle to eat the grass now and buy supplementary feed in the winter, he said supplementation is the preferred option, but it's an economic decision for farmers.

He also advised that grass has become quite stemmy in the past week as quality has begun to detoriate.

Vincent Griffin from Aurivo said very good silage is being made at the moment, with most of its suppliers having started to cut in the past 10 days, but that cuts are light.

Coleman Purcell from Dairygold said that acerage is back a  bit with many of its suppliers, and while first cuts were light for many farmers, more recent cuts have had particularly good yields.

He also said that the perception of quality todate is good.

Teagasc is also encouraging farmers to make a fodder budget now and assess what fodder needs they might have this winter.

After a very tough and long winter and spring, coupled with a poor summer last year, the farming community was gripped by a fodder crisis earlier this year and the country was forced to import fodder from abroad.

On foot of this, a fodder crisis committee was set up to develop a plan to prevent another fodder crisis happening.

As part of this, Teagasc is leading a drive for all farmers to carry out a fodder budget and will be sampling around 1,000 farmers to see how much fodder they have planned for the winter.

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