Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Heavy rainfall wreaking havoc with farm work

Urgent call for extension of slurry-spreading deadline while 350,000 tonnes of straw in danger of being lost

Slurry spreading - a two week extension is being sought
Slurry spreading - a two week extension is being sought
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Hard-pressed agricultural contractors and farmers have called for a two-week extension to the slurry-spreading deadline as the continuing heavy rain plays havoc with farm work.

The contractors want a temporary 16-day extension to the spreading dates for slurry, which generally closes on October 15, to allow land-spreading up to October 31 this year.

The call comes as contractors struggle to finish the grain harvest across areas of the midlands, east Connacht and Donegal.

Contractors have urged the Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and the Environment Minister Denis Naughten to agree to the extension.

"An extension to the land-spreading date to the end of October will provide farm contractors with an opportunity, weather and ground conditions permitting, to complete land-spreading activities that have been curtailed during the last few months due to the exceptional weather conditions," said Richard White, national chair of the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI).

"Our members are concerned about their ability to meet that deadline date on behalf of their farmer customers," he explained.

The IFA has backed the FCI request, with the association's environment chairman, Thomas Cooney, pointing out that parts of the country, particularly the north-west, have been badly affected by heavy rainfall, resulting in flooding and poor land conditions.

With thousands of cattle housed for the last three weeks in the west and northwest, there are growing fears that on-farm slurry storage capacity will increasingly become an issue.

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"It is important some relief is available to farmers who are experiencing difficulties in these areas and that penalties are not imposed," Mr Cooney said.

Meanwhile, the IFA has warned that 350,000 tonnes of straw is in danger of being lost due to the wet weather. This equates to more than two million round 4x4 bales of straw.

Liam Dunne of the IFA said that around 35pc of the straw crop had yet to be baled, but both contractors and farmers were too busy cutting remaining crops to even consider pulling out balers. In some instances, unfit straw crops have been baled in order to clear fields so that winter cereals could be sown. Contractors admit that much of the straw crop could yet be salvaged but around 10 days of fine weather is urgently required.

Mr Dunne maintained that 10,000ac of spring wheat and spring barley remained to be cut in the midlands, east Connacht and Donegal.

Around 30pc of the cereals harvest has still to be completed in Donegal, while substantial acreages of crops have to be cut in north Tipperary, Offaly, Westmeath and north Meath.

Galway contractor Martin Fleming said a lot of cereals had still to be cut in east Galway and south Roscommon.

In addition, Mr Fleming said he had up to 50 customers waiting to harvest second-cut silage. He admitted that getting the weather to cut and bale these crops could be a big problem.

Meanwhile, straw traders in the east of the country claim it is becoming increasingly difficult to source supplies.

The delivered price of 8x4x3 bales of wheaten and barley straw has jumped from €42 to €50/bale as a result of the shortages, with oilseed rape straw making €45/bale.

Strong demand is also reported for sugar beet and fodder beet, with prices of around €40/t out of the yard or €60/t delivered to the North being quoted.

Serious shortages of fodder are being reported among farmers in Northern Ireland.

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