Farmers told to carry two months' worth of extra silage
Farmers have been told they should carry two months of extra silage in future to protect against extreme weather events that have become more common in recent years.
It came at the meeting of an inter-agency fodder committee set up by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed in response to the fodder crisis.
Farmers endured a tough year with freezing conditions persisting into late spring before the summer drought.
A fodder survey at the end of October showed that one-third of farmers are still 15pc short of fodder. This is equivalent to a deficit of three weeks' feeding, based on a 145-day winter.
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 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 concluded 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 Éireann's Evelyn Cusack warned recently 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 said 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.