Monday 10 December 2018

Water supplies coming under increasing pressure with no end in sight to drought-like weather

Fire services on 'high alert' as threat of gorse fires increases

Bill Browne

While the long spell of dry weather may not have, as yet, caused critical problems for farmers, that situation could very quickly change if we do not get badly needed rain soon.

That's according to Buttevant farmer John Coughlan, the Munster regional chairman of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).

Speaking to "Of course, many farmers have their own wells, and they are managing. However, there are serious concerns that this will change if, as forecasted, the weather does turn within the next couple of weeks," said Mr Coughlan.

"If we do get rain it might ease the situation somewhat. But, given the amount of water that dairy farmers need, it is looking dangerous. It's not critical at present, but it may not be too far from that," he warned.

Despite assurances from Irish Water that it will accommodate farmers impacted by reduced water supply from public water sources, Mr Coughlan said that many of them are already feeling the pinch due to low water pressures.

"A cow needs 100 litres of drinking water per day and if the public supply is interrupted, they will need to find another source that will have to be replenished dail,y such as a tanker," he said.

Mr Coughlan said the fact that the drought-like conditions have come on the back of one of the worst winter's for many years has also compounded the situation for farmers.

He said that only around 60 per cent of winter feed has been harvested and that is already being used. This is being made worse by the fact that farmers who might normally be using one kg of feed per cow are now using more than six times that amount.

"We had an eight-month winter instead of the normal five-month season. As we are now experiencing no grass growth, farmers are using the feed they will need for next winter.

Using fodder this early in the year is a big problem. It means that farmers have the added burden of having to buy expensive concentrated feed, which should not be happening at this time of the year," said Mr Coughlan.

"The longer this weather continues, the worse it is going to get. If we get some rain now, farmers will manage to some degree and be able to save some fodder. But if it does not rain soon, it will be too late in the year to conserve fodder stocks."  Mr Coughlan went on to say that things are equally perilous for tillage farmers, with the barley crop being sown late due to bad weather.

"This means it has not had the chance to root properly ahead of the hot weather, which will result in a smaller crop yield," he said.

"Farmers are trying to manage their crops, but it is crucial that they have enough water to be able to do so and things are becoming more critical with each passing day.

"If this weather continues for much longer, farmers could very well find themselves in financial difficulties, and we will have to look at ways of easing that burden on them."