Tuesday 23 April 2019

Farmer stress levels going up as quickly as thermometers

Deborah Coleman

Farmers in Wicklow are facing difficult challenges as a result of the current 'once in a generation weather event' the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has said.

In the wake of confirmation by Irish Water that they will accommodate farmers impacted by reduced water supply from public water sources, to ensure they have sufficient water for animals and for other needs on the farm, the IFA has urged Wicklow members to contact the utility if they need help.

Over 130,000 farmers and rural households source their water from private wells or group water Schemes and are, therefore, not affected by national restrictions.

However, according the IFA chairman Joe Healy, those experiencing water supply shortages due to any restrictions should make it known to Irish Water.

Mr Healy said that the drought is having a serious impact on grass and crop growth.

'For livestock farmers, soil moisture and high temperatures are impacting on grass growth rates. Farmers are using fodder supplies to feed animals, but the worry now is how quickly growth will resume and whether farmers will be able to save enough silage and hay for the winter ahead, particularly as reserves were well depleted during the extended poor weather conditions earlier this year,' he said.

He has urged farmers to take early action to manage the situation and to take note of Teagasc advice for feeding in the drought conditions.

For tillage and vegetable farmers, the weather conditions at this critical period will impact on yields which will compound the income crisis they are already facing.

'Crop losses look inevitable with growers facing a situation where winter crops in the ground are stressed, and spring crops planted about eight weeks ago have not had any rain since. The continuing trend of low prices on the one side and increasing input prices on the other is placing cereal and vegetable production in this country under threat. All stakeholders will have to sit up and take note of the difficulties farmers are facing and realise that they must work with their growers to sustain them through this difficult period.'

Mr Healy said meat factories and retailers must act responsibly at this difficult time and not put undue downward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association (ICMSA) has reported much concern amongst members and said that their 'worry levels are going up as quickly as the thermometer levels. ICMSA president Pat McCormack confirmed that the water shortage situation amongst members is most acute in Wicklow, Kilkenny and Laois.

Bray People