Grass growth surge making it a bumper year for fodder

Making hay: Noel Davis from Carramore, Loughrea, Co Galway turning hay during last week's sunny spell. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Making hay: Noel Davis from Carramore, Loughrea, Co Galway turning hay during last week's sunny spell. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

What a difference a year makes. While the country was struggling through the 10th week of scorching temperatures this time last year, and farmers were battling to keep water and grass or fodder in front of animals, the recent fine weather has generally brought welcome relief after a month's rain.

Unlike last summer's drought - when Irish Water was warning of supply disruptions across the south-east and one New Ross milk supplier likened local conditions to farming on the Moon - the combination of a month's rain and a week's heat is driving grass over the walls.

The latest figures from Teagasc's PastureBase service put regional growth rates at 68kg/ha/day in Leinster, 66kg/ha/day in Munster, 64kg/ha/day in Connacht, and 61kg/ha/day in Ulster.

However, growth rates well in excess of these levels have been recorded on individual farms, with many holdings in the south topping 70kg/ha/day, and 80kg/ha/day in exceptional cases.

The surge in grass growth means a bumper year for contractors, with farmers being encouraged to close and bale any ground that animals are unlikely to graze in the current rotation.

Indeed, reports from the west and midwest suggest that silage crops have been that heavy in some places this summer that fields had to be baled because there was no room in the pit.

However, for every ying there is a yang; and if the contractors are this year's winners, then surely feed merchants are the losers.

Feed sales were already back this spring because of early grass growth in January and February. Now Mother Nature has hit the feed merchants again, with Teagasc and farm consultants advising milk suppliers to cut meal inputs and increase grass intakes.

If it wasn't for the extra €350m that farmers spent on concentrates last year, you'd be tempted to feel sorry for them.

Indo Farming