Scarce grass supplies as drought problems grow
Drought conditions on farms across the southern half of the country have escalated in the past week, with farmers on the driest land now engaged in a daily battle to conserve scarce grass supplies.
However, some relief will be on the horizon, with rain forecast for most areas tomorrow – heaviest in the west – and thunderstorms due to become a more common feature nationwide by the end of the week.
Soil moisture deficits have continued to increase, with 75pc of the country recording a deficit above 50mm (two inches).
The worst hit areas are in the south and southeast, with farms in counties Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork, Tipperary, Wexford and Carlow now recording deficits of over 75mm (three inches).
Even wetter farms are beginning to feel the pinch, with grass growth rates tightening, albeit 7-10 days behind dry farms.
Growth rates of 10-20kg DM/ha were estimated at the Teagasc Greenfield farm, while three farms in New Ross, Co Wexford averaged 20kg DM/ha, while Moorepark grew 15-20kg. Wetter soil farms at Emly, Co Tipperary recorded 45kg DM/ha and 39kg at Dingle, Co Kerry.
Cow performance is being affected by drought, with milk protein levels lower than expected for this time of the year and, in some cases, lower milk yields too.
Less grass in the diet, lower quality grass and possible heat stress are among the factors affecting milk protein and yield, a meeting of the Teagasc-led fodder taskforce was told on Thursday.