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Friday 20 July 2018

Farmers face fodder dilemma as lack of rain stops grass growth

This week's forecast will suit farmers making or wrapping hay. In this photo the hay was cut on 21th of June and will be wrapped on 23rd June, according to farmer Liam Keating. Photo: Roger Jones
This week's forecast will suit farmers making or wrapping hay. In this photo the hay was cut on 21th of June and will be wrapped on 23rd June, according to farmer Liam Keating. Photo: Roger Jones
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farmers in Leinster are dealing with drought conditions and many facing fodder issues as the lack of rain in recent weeks means has seen grass growth slow significantly.

The lack of rain in recent weeks means grass growth has stopped on many farms, especially along the eastern seaboard, and farmers are being forced to feed grass that was earmarked for second-cut silage and concentrates to cattle.

Met Eireann says soil moisture deficits currently range from around 20 to 40mm in the northwest of the country, which had some rain last week, but there are drought or near drought conditions over Leinster.

Teagasc Head of Livestock Systems, Padraig French, said that soil moisture is predicted to go below 80ml this week, which will see grass stop growing completely.

It comes as grass growth has been seriously curtailed in recent weeks as the lack of rain sees farmers along the eastern seaboard now face soil moisture deficit levels of 70ml.

The challenge now for farmers, he said, is what to feed cattle - whether to graze second cut silage ground or buy in extra supplements.

"It does not make economic sense to close ground for silage and feed out silage to cattle. It makes sense to graze that second cut silage ground."

But, he warned that due to the dry conditions in recent weeks, that grass is quite low yielding.

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"If we get rain in the weeks ahead, there will be an immediate response with the amount of nitrogen out there."

"50mls of soil deficit levels really affects growth rate and growth rates have halved over the past week and it's now way below demand. We will end up grazing the second cut ground and eating silage."

The recent good weather, which he described as "extraordinary" has made up for lost time in March and April, but warned that if it continues some farmers could face going into the winter months with reduced levels of fodder.

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