Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

Rain arrives just in time for farmers in eastern areas

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The weekend rains came just in time for farmers in the south and east of the country who have been battling poor grass growth.

Dairy and cattle farmers on light land have been hardest hit during the dry spell, with grass growth rates at half last year's levels in some areas.

While growth rates of 99kg of grass dry matter (DM) per hectare were recorded in 2016, drier parts of the east and southeast grew just 40-45kg DM/ha last week.

Teagasc's Michael O'Donovan said average grass growth rates are around 55kgs DM/ha, which were slightly below the average demand of 58kg DM/ha.

He said farmers in drier parts of the country were forced to graze silage ground because of poor regrowth levels.

Some dairy farmers were also feeding around 2kg of ration per cow per day, he added.

Mr O'Donovan said the focus for these farmers was holding their grazing rotation through the dry spell. However, growth rates are expected to rebound in the medium term on the back of the recent rains.

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Mr O'Donovan pointed out that soil temperatures remained around 15°C and that all pastures required was moisture levels to improve.

Jimmy Brett of south-east-based merchants Brett Brothers, said the dry spell had not been reflected in a noticeable increase in feed sales. He described the conditions last week as "challenging", but said that grass growth through April was "wonderful".

Meanwhile, George Ramsbottom of Teagasc said the dry weather had given a real boost to farmers on heavier soils.

He said these farmers were enjoying near perfect grazing conditions for the last month and that this was now likely to continue.

The warm conditions were also being reflected in stronger milk yields and a far smoother breeding season, Mr Ramsbottom added.

"Farmers are saying that breeding is going shocking well. It's just easier to identify cows that are bulling," he said.

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