Farm Ireland
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Monday 22 October 2018

'I thought I had plenty of silage – but I was totally out' - 190 cow dairy farmer on coping with an empty silage pit

Farmer Rory McEvoy pictured as feed distributes fodder for his cattle, on his farm near Mountmellick, Co Laois. Picture Credit:Frank Mc Grath
Farmer Rory McEvoy pictured as feed distributes fodder for his cattle, on his farm near Mountmellick, Co Laois. Picture Credit:Frank Mc Grath
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The sight of an empty silage pit is something no farmer wants to see when there is little or no grass in the waterlogged fields.

Yet Rory McEvoy, a dairy and beef farmer from outside Rosenallis, Co Laois, found himself, like many farmers, in that unenviable position.

Luckily for the 33-year-old, who milks 190 cows with his father John, as well as keeping some cattle for beef, they were able to buy in some silage from a spare pit that a local farmer had.

“I was totally out,” he said, adding they were now feeding 7 tonnes of bought in silage a day along with extra meal to cows in the parlour. “I’d normally have the cows out by day and by night.”

Farmer Rory McEvoy pictuted with some of his Cattle in the fields on his farm near Mountmellick, Co Laois. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Farmer Rory McEvoy pictuted with some of his Cattle in the fields on his farm near Mountmellick, Co Laois. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

He added: “I thought at the start of the year I had plenty of silage but since Christmas and with the cold weather I felt I was going through a lot of it and the silage pit disappeared fast.” During the previous difficult winter of 2013, he said they were also forced to buy in a lot of silage.

Looking out at his waterlogged fields, Rory said it was impossible to let out the cows as the entire farm is “swimming” in water after the heavy falls over the weekend. “I have year old heifers on silage ground and they are after going to their knees in it. I’m afraid to go look at them. I don’t think I will bring them in. I’m terrified I’ll run out of silage with the cows,” he said.

Yet for the McEvoys the fodder shortage has not been the worst hurdle they have had to overcome as in periods over the past four years they have been ‘locked up’ after TB was identified on the farm.

“The Department took 50 cows off of us two days before Christmas four years ago. To come back into the yard and see a shed empty of cows. That was the hardest day,” he said, adding in total they had 180 animals taken off them and destroyed due to TB over the past four years.

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“There is no point in panicking. I’m a great believer in trying and trying again,” he said. However, Rory stressed another week of bad weather and poor growth and farmers everywhere will be looking at empty pits.

His neighbour, suckler and beef finisher Paul Maher, admitted he was one of the lucky ones with fodder and was able to help out some neighbours with small amounts of fodder.

Cattle in the sheds at Rory McEvoys farm near Mountmellick, Co Laois. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Cattle in the sheds at Rory McEvoys farm near Mountmellick, Co Laois. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

“I’m extremely lucky and I’ve been there before. You do your best for your neighbours. There is nothing as bad as knowing you can’t get feed and your cattle are roaring in the sheds,” said Paul.

“We are looking at the back wall now. Using excess silage stocks built up over the last couple of years. Stock have been back in three times – cows and calves. We’ve weanlings still out.

Water troughs for cattle lie dormant in a field near Clonaslee Co Laois. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Water troughs for cattle lie dormant in a field near Clonaslee Co Laois. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

“I have never seen it as wet and as bad. It’s cold and no growth in that – I’ve taken soil temperatures and they were under 6C.”


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