Farm Ireland
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Saturday 17 November 2018

Farmers urged to stick with first cut silage targets

Teagasc dairy specialist Joe Patton. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Teagasc dairy specialist Joe Patton. Photo: Steve Humphreys

FARMERS have been urged to stick with target dates for first cut silage and to close as much ground as is feasible over the coming weeks.

Delaying the closing of ground for first cut silage "was not the answer" and "would be counter-productive", Joe Patton of Teagasc maintained.

He said farmers should aim for first and second cuts of silage, despite the current weather-related difficulties, rather than trying for one big cut in late June or early July.

While the Teagasc specialist accepted that closing grazing ground will be challenging on many holdings that are short of grass, he said failing to meet target dates for first cut silage will result in more serious problems later in the year.

Mr Patton said pushing the first cut back by a week or 10 days would be understandable, but he claimed that delaying by any more will "contribute to more problems than it will solve".

The general picture on grass growth has improved considerably over the last fortnight. Growth rates have hit 55kg/ha/day on ground where fertiliser has been spread.

However, farms that have not spread sufficient fertiliser are struggling with growth rates of between 25kg/ha/day and 35kg/ha/day, depending on soil type.

Mr Patton said grass growth in excess of 50kg/ha/day offers an opportunity for farmers to close silage ground, but holdings with growth rates at half this level will struggle, he admitted.

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Heavy ground

Farmers on heavy ground are struggling to get stock out in many parts of the country. The problem has been felt in many areas along the west coast and has been particularly severe on heavily stocked dairy units in Munster, where heavy rains at the end of last week resulted in a sharp deterioration of grazing conditions.

The situation varies from farm to farm but many milk suppliers are being forced to feed 8-10kg of concentrates per day to make up for poor grass intakes.

Demand for fodder in the north-west has eased over the last week. One feed trader in the area said hauliers were drawing mixed loads of straw and hay but that the severe pressure had abated.

Round bales of hay are trading for €45-50, while 8x4x3 bales of oaten and wheaten straw are selling for €70.

Meanwhile, Vincent Roddy of the INHFA warned that the fodder crisis had piled debt on farmers.

He said a serious "farmer welfare issue" was emerging and he urged the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to pay all outstanding monies owed to farmers and to consider the establishment of a hardship fund for struggling farmers.

Mr Creed confirmed balancing payments of almost €19m under the sheep welfare scheme to 20,000 farmers had begun.


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