Hidden costs can pile up
While drainage costs vary a lot, depending on the measures required, the hidden costs of a drainage project are the ones that farmers need to consider carefully.
In Con Lehane's case, it was the amount of fill that had to be drawn away from the main drain when it was being lowered by 4ft that caught him by surprise. This ended up costing close to €1,500/ha, which was well above the average across the nine farms in the drainage project, but still significantly cheaper than one farm near Crossmolina in Co Mayo where open drain work ended up costing around €3,500/ha.
In addition, it is easy to overlook the additional infrastructure that is required to utilise the additional grass that your land is capable of producing.
In Con and Neilie's case, additional spur roads are now required to be able to access sections of fields that may only previously have been block-grazed during dry weather.
"You can't have too many roadways on wetland farms," commented Teagasc's Pat Buckley. "Especially on a long, narrow farm like this that has a lot of long paddocks. If you want to strip-graze grass, without compromising regrowth, then additional spurs are required."
In terms of a breakdown of the actual costs involved with the drainage work, the Lehane's €5,450/ha was close to the average across the nine different locations.
The lowest was in Kiskeam in Cork at €3,420/ha, while the highest was in west Limerick at €7,155/ha. The variation depended largely on the suitability of existing open drains, the type of drainage system required, along with the intensity and cost of the work and stone involved.
These investments come at a time when many farmers are finding that they are investing heavily in their operations to cope with the twin pressures of increasing output and more compact calving.