The wet year of 2012 and the fodder shortage of the 2013 spring has highlighted the need to maximise grass growth and our ability to harvest this growth in order to maintain profitability of the farming system.

So it's no surprise that wet soil conditions have been identified as the most important factor limiting the utilisation of grazed grass on Irish farms.

However, one may be surprised to realise that almost half of the land in Ireland would benefit from drainage and/ or reclamation, and that only approximately 20pc of the agricultural area in Ireland has undergone artificial drainage compared to 65pc in England.

But drainage is rising to the top of the list of investment priorities on a number of farms because of the positive impact it has on grass production.

This is achieved by promoting deep rooting and increased nutrient uptake. An added bonus is improved ground trafficability.


However, we can't ignore the fact that the funds available for such an investment in 2013 are limited.

For a number of farmers, just paying off debts to co-ops, local merchants and bank overdrafts will be the biggest priority this year.

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So the first step for many farmers will be to calculate what they can afford to spend. Setting a budget for the remainder of 2013 would be very useful.

This can be done by determining your total income taking into account potential reductions in sales, increases in expenses, and the payment of debts carried over from 2012.

The essential question is whether there will be any cash surplus available for investment.

If the answer to that question is no, farmers must decide if savings could be used or whether the bank should be approached to finance the work.

While drainage options range substantially in cost, it's not a case of 'one size fits all', and it's imperative to put the right drainage system in place to ensure the most effective return.

Stone is costly so using it wisely is essential.

Irish Independent

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