Friday 22 November 2019

Good weather threatens new crisis for farmers

Caitriona Murphy

FROM floods to drought in less than eight weeks, Ireland's farmers are now facing a second fodder shortage as a result of the current heatwave.

Just weeks ago, farmers were struggling to cope with a fodder crisis created by heavy rain and cold temperatures, but now it's soaring temperatures and lack of rain that are threatening grass supplies.

Waterford father and son Joe and John Flynn are among the farmers who have been forced to feed their cows extra silage and concentrate meals in an effort to preserve their dwindling grass supplies.

"We started to feed baled silage and doubled the cows' ration," said Joe. "Otherwise we would be out of grass completely in less than three weeks."

Milking 69 cows at Ardnahoe, Dunhill, 12 miles from Waterford city, the Flynns are now feeding some of the silage they had hoped to conserve.

"We were already in a silage deficit and now we're feeding some of the silage we will need next winter," said Joe.

"But the milk yield was starting to drop and we need to ensure that what grass we have stays growing."

Farms in parts of Cork, Tipperary, Wexford and Kilkenny are also suffering from drought, with grass growth plummeting and additional feeding required for animals.

Jim Treacy, manager of the 500-cow herd at Rockwell, Cashel, Co Tipperary, said growth on the farm had halved as a result of the dry weather.


"We will have to be careful with what's left and budget the grass to maintain what we have," he said.

Grass-growth figures from Teagasc, the national farm advisory body, show that grass growth has plummeted on dry farms in the past week.

Growth was down 50pc on farms in counties Wexford, Cork and Tipperary while growth on Teagasc's model farm in Co Kilkenny was practically non-existent.

Rainfall in those counties has been less than 5pc of normal for the time of year, and Met Eireann figures show the soils have a moisture deficit of up to two inches (50mm).

Meanwhile, a national fodder census carried out by Teagasc has found only one-third of farmers surveyed have enough fodder for next winter.

Irish Independent

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