Farmers told they should have two months extra silage in reserve
- One third of farmers nationally are still 15pc short of fodder
- Expanding farmers should match stocking rate to grass growing capacity
Farmers have been told they should carry two months of extra silage in future to protect against extreme weather events which have become more common in recent years.
The conclusion was reached following the latest meeting of an inter-agency fodder committee set up by Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed in response to the fodder crisis.
Farmers should plan to carry a two-month reserve of silage (0.7t Dry matter per livestock unit) in excess of that required for a normal winter. This, it said should be carried as a rolling feed reserve.
The committee conceded that there will be cost involved but said it will greatly reduce the impact of future weather events.
It also recommended a national census of stocks of winter fodder harvested should be conducted in July and November every year and that all farmers need to do fodder budgets for their own farms at these dates.
The committee also concluded that considerable scope exists on most farms to increase grass and silage production through improving soil fertility.
However, it also warned that expanding farmers should match stocking rate to average grass growing capacity.
It comes as Met Eireann’s Evelyn Cusack, warned recently that Ireland can expect more heavy snow during the winter with climate change having an effect.
Despite saying adverse weather conditions take place irrespective of climate change, Met Éireann's head of forecasting explained that heavier snow could be anticipated in the coming years.
"There is a chance of more snow even though the climate is warming up and that's because there's more moisture in the atmosphere," Ms Cusack said.
"There's more evaporation because of the higher sea temperatures and then in winter, instead of rain, it turns to snow. So in fact, snow events could be heavier."
Ms Cusack said because of the different weather conditions experienced in the past 12 months, she expects the public to take real notice this year.
"The message is prepare yourself for all eventualities and listen out for the warnings and the local forecasts as well," she said.
The fodder committee said that farmers had shown tremendous resilience in the face of difficult weather conditions in 2018.
Fodder supplies have largely been rebuilt on most farms through a combination of measures implemented in recent months. However, despite the recovery in grass growth during autumn, annual growth rates remain behind the long-term average.
A fodder survey completed at the end of October showed that one third of farmers nationally are still short 15pc of fodder. This is equivalent to a deficit of three weeks feeding, based on a 145-day winter.