'We fed all the way to May and now we are back feeding again'
"An inch of rain would be a lot better to us now than a bag of fertiliser," is Owen Hallahan's take on the recent drought conditions.
The west Waterford dairy farmer is milking 200 cows on what he describes as "wicked dry ground" at Aglish, between Cappoquin and Dungarvan.
Like every other farmer in the southeast, Owen has struggled to keep grass in front of his cows over the last week as the dry weather has taken its toll.
While grass growth was up on 50kg/ha/day 10 days ago, it has now fallen to around 30kg/ha/day.
"And given the weather that is forecast, it's only going one way," Owen says ruefully.
Owen is already feeding round bales of silage.
The cows are on 5kg of dairy ration, they get 9kg of grass, and the rest is silage.
He is trying to keep the paddock rotation at 25 days but he says that a lot of milking platform is beginning to "burn up".
Owen reckons that he is close to the limit at the moment with grass covers across the farm averaging 100kgs/ha/day when they should be at 500kgs/ha/day.
"This has been one rough year in terms of grass, but these are the joys of farming," he says.
"It's like a neighbour said to me, we missed a season this year - we went straight from winter into summer.
"We fed all the way to May, and now we're back feeding again."
Owen is considering increasing concentrates to 6kg/day if it is required, and he might sell off some high cell count cows if he has to.
"The feed bills will double this year. But on the plus side, at least the backside didn't fall out of milk prices altogether," he says.
Although the Aglish area has received just 15mm of rain over the last fortnight, water supplies to the dairy herd should not be a problem.
"We have our own well and it has never run dry in my time," says Owen. "But then this year is the year of extremes."
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