Heatwave starts crucial week for silage making

Caitriona Murphy

A long-awaited surge in grass growth rates should see first-cut silage get under way in earnest this week.

Scorching temperatures of up to 28C late last week and into the weekend saw grass growth rates more than double on many farms.

With growth rates in excess of 80-90kg DM/ha, today and tomorrow will be crucial days for grazing versus silage decisions as grass deficits quickly turn into surpluses.

But farmers have been warned that the delay in first-cut silage could have serious implications for grass supplies later this year.

Teagasc dairy adviser John Donworth warned that a late and light first cut followed by a very big second cut would mean that farmers would only have enough grass for a light grazing before they have to close up paddocks for the winter.

He added that the high temperatures, combined with a drying breeze, could also limit grass growth on dry farms in the coming days.

While ungrazed silage fields have already been harvested in some counties, the majority of farms are running behind schedule due to the unseasonably cold weather in April and early May.

First crops that have been cut are described by agricultural contractors as light, but of excellent quality.

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Cork contractor Timmy O'Brien said the silage season would be a long-drawn-out affair due to the late start. However, he added that excellent growing conditions in the past week would see farmers starting to cut silage from this week onwards.

First-cut silage in the Sligo/Roscommon area is running three weeks behind normal due to poor growth in April, said contractor Dermot Casey. Galway-based Dermot Breheny said the early cuts of silage in his area had been very light due to frost in the middle of the growing season.

Farmers in Louth appear to be ahead of the pack, with their silage having been in the pit for almost two weeks.

Contractor Paul Shevlin said silage yields were variable, with some great crops of grass on heavier, wetter land and lighter crops on drier farms.

Meanwhile, the Irish Cancer Society has urged farmers and all outdoor workers to protect their skin, whether it is sunny or cloudy, to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Nine out of 10 cases of skin cancer are caused by ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun or sunbeds.

Farmers should cover up by wearing a shirt with a collar and long shorts, a hat and wraparound sunglasses with UV protection.

Sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher and UVA protection should be applied 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours.

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