Farm Ireland
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Monday 16 July 2018

Farmers ‘having to use winter fodder as land is totally parched’

Farmer, Paul Brophy holding some broccoli in his field in south Kildare which has been affected by the lack to rain due to the warm weather. Picture: Damien Eagers.
Farmer, Paul Brophy holding some broccoli in his field in south Kildare which has been affected by the lack to rain due to the warm weather. Picture: Damien Eagers.

Laura Lynott and Ralph Riegel

The Government and farmers are pinning their hopes of averting a national fodder crisis on a change in the weather.

They believe good rainfall and warm temperatures in the middle of this month can help kick-start grass growth.

The Department of Agriculture and Teagasc are now “carefully monitoring” soil moisture and grass growth levels.

Experts indicate that a resumption of strong grass growth in mid to late July can help offset the consequences of the current drought conditions. Some farmers are now having to use winter feed stocks to support hungry animals on parched fields.

A senior Government source confirmed yesterday that there are no plans to immediately reintroduce a fodder support scheme.

However, he admitted that the next two to five weeks will be critical in terms of improved weather.

And Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, who yesterday brought his French counterpart Stephane Travert to the Munster hurling final in Thurles, has stressed that if the fodder situation reaches levels of serious concern, a subsidised feed import scheme will be examined.

A fodder import scheme was ordered last April after losses sustained by farmers during the harsh winter and miserable spring. But Ireland’s major farm organisations, the IFA and ICMSA, are now awaiting weather developments before demanding specific Government action.

Teagasc has already indicated that the first cut of silage delivered reasonable yields.

The concern is that extended drought could ruin the second cut of silage now vital to helping replenish the winter fodder stocks.

Rainfall

Ireland has around 6.6 million cattle and experts acknowledge that high stocking levels are complicating the current fodder and drought situation.

Met Éireann has imposed a Status Yellow drought warning until July 5 – with another week of hot weather forecast for most of the country.

Critically, Met Éireann has said that there will be relatively low levels of rainfall for the next week.

Cork dairy farmer Kevin Morrissey said the past 12 months have left the industry facing unprecedented challenges.

“I am using winter fodder to feed my cattle because the grazing just isn’t there for them. The land is totally parched – grass doesn’t grow in drought-like conditions.”

Kevin, who milks 94 cattle at his Roche’s Point farm in Cork, said the conditions were totally unprecedented.

He explained: “My cattle need 18kg of feed per day.

“Normally I would be giving them 1kg of nuts with decent grass growth.

“But I am now giving them 6kg of nuts a day – that is one third of their daily feed.”

Kildare broccoli farmer Paul Brophy is worried that he will lose 50pc of his yield on a 600- acre plot due to the heatwave and drought.

“We are going to lose a lot of money,” the 55-year-old father of three warned.

“We are not going be able to fulfil our contract orders.

“I expect to lose 50pc of yield. It is more than likely that consumers will see an impact in the next week on the supermarket shelves. We need public support. People need to be aware there is a real-life issue impacting Irish farmers here.

“Just paying 10c or 15c more on a product would make a huge difference to us,” he said.

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