Sun boosts spirits and growth rates

John Donworth, Teagasc
John Donworth, Teagasc
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

One of the sunniest weeks of the last 30 years has eased the pressure on farmers pushed to the brink by increased workloads and low prices.

With soil temperatures up to 3C higher than normal and weather stations east and west recording the sunniest days of the last 16 years over the last week, grass growth, crops, animal thrive and the general humour of beleaguered farmers has improved dramatically.

Grass growth on Teagasc's drystock research farms was up 50-100pc compared to the same week last year, while growth rates on dairy farms from Cavan to Cork were up by 20-50pc.

Days with over 15 hours of uninterrupted sunshine ensured ideal silage-making conditions, while animal thrive has turned around after hitting rock bottom at the start of May.

"Farmers were just getting burnt out and were in danger of losing interest in turning the situation around," commented well-known cow fertility expert Dan Ryan.

Figures from the Department of Agriculture show that mortality rates on farms this spring were 14pc higher than the average for the last two years, with an extra 14,000 recorded deaths on farms for the first four months of the year, compared to 2014.

Teagasc regional manager for Kerry and Limerick, John Donworth, said that farmers were in better form.

"A lot of farmers said they hadn't experienced a week like it," he said, before adding that super grazing conditions were delivering top-quality silage, with little effluent.

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"We've tested grass with sugar levels at 3pc or over and only requiring a short wilt," he said. However, he warned farmers to watch water provision as cows suffering dehydration can lose a gallon of milk in a short time.

Mayo-based Teagasc advisor John Noonan said growth rates in lambs were on the rise and it was pointing towards a good year for the sector.

However, he said the overall lamb crop may be down slightly due to the difficult spring. Mr Noonan added that with grass growth rates so good farmers should be aiming for "quality silage rather than quantity".

Heavy downpours in parts of the country yesterday paused silage activity temporarily, with Met Eireann issuing an orange alert for the northern half of the country, warning of localised flooding.

However, the rain will have been welcome for farmers in the southeast, where soil moisture deficits were building.

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