'Terrible situation' reported with first cut up to four weeks late
Contractors and farmers are hitting crisis point with the harvesting of the silage crop as the worst June weather in decades has taken a heavy toll on the work.
Reports from around the country indicate that around 40pc of the first cut has been harvested, with the season running between two and four weeks later than normal.
However, rapidly deteriorating ground conditions -- particularly on heavy soils in the southwest, west and northwest -- has slowed progress in many areas to a snail's pace.
Between 60pc and 70pc of the first cuts have been harvested in the dry lands of the south and east, but the rate may be as low as 25-30pc in some of the heavier soils in the west and northwest.
At a meeting of contractors in Co Meath on Thursday night. it was estimated that only 40pc of the first cut had been harvested nationally and up to 50pc in the north-east.
There are now mounting fears for the second cut of silage, because of the delay in completing the first cut.
June is on course to be one of the wettest on record with rainfall up to four times greater than normal.
West Limerick contractor Maurice McEnery said he had around 50pc of the first cut done, but he would normally have it finished by now.
"The season is three to four weeks late and crops are getting very heavy now. We are only operating two to three days each week," Mr McEnery said.
"Harvesting is completed on the best of the land but the going is getting very tough on the heavier soils. It is a long time since we've experienced June as bad," he added.
The slow pace of the harvest and higher diesel prices is also taking its toll on contractor margins.
"It is a terrible situation -- we are close to crisis point now. Our costs have all gone up and with the weather conditions we are not getting the same output," said Drogheda contractor, Paul Shevlin. "We can't charge more to the farmers because it is not their fault and we won't get it. Yesterday, we cut 60ac; we'd normally do at least 120ac per day and it now looks that a lot of farmers will not be doing a second cut this year."
Teagasc nutritionist, Siobhan Kavanagh is advising farmers to defer cutting for drier conditions.
She says that loss of quality on DMD is preferable to poorly preserved silage cut in very wet conditions, which will have an effect on animal performance.
Meanwhile, Teagasc dairy specialist John Donworth said the weather was having a serious impact on dairy farms, with milk yields well back and grass growth and ground conditions taking a pounding.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 14