Wexford People

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Silage a real struggle

WHILE MOST of us have been severely disappointed by this summer, or lack thereof so far, spare a thought for the farmers.

Times are tough for farmers in Wexford and indeed all over the country and with costs soaring, the last thing that the agricultural community needs is the weather wreaking havoc on their production.

Having gotten over one of the wettest Junes in history and after a miserable start to July, farmers all over the country are facing crisis. According to the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), the torrential rain that we've been experiencing in recent weeks has led to increasing levels of stress and depression amongst the farming community as they struggle to deal with the financial consequences of the bad weather.

Ger Lyons, County Chairman of the IFA for Wexford, said: ' Well it's been one of the worst summers on record. Throughout June it was just a complete deluge. It's very frustrating, but I suppose there's nothing that you can do about it. That's the weather for you. We had problems like this in 2009 too, but we'll just have to struggle on through.'

As a direct result of the weather, in several parts of the country only a third of the silage crop has been harvested, posing huge difficulties on farms, meaning that many cattle have to be kept indoors and fed rations, drastically increasing feed costs.

With production levels way back and critically, most of next winter's feed still not in, farmers are finding the situation near impossible. Usually farmers would hope to have up to 80% of silage harvested by the end of June, however the weather is causing significant delays and it is feared that the quality of what will be saved will suffer, resulting in extra feeding costs next winter.

The extra cost of feed and lower milk yields have already reduced farmers' profits and warm, dry weather is urgently needed to facilitate silage-making and a return of cattle to the fields.

' Well the big problem is that what little manage of silage we've managed to get in is of very poor quality due to the weather and hay is non existent at the moment,' Ger said. ' Then this has an impact of the amount of grain and that needed. Also grain prices have gone up a lot at the moment because, believe it or not, in the US they have the opposite problem and there's a drought. A good ration now is costing about €300 per tonne. It was only about €200 per tonne a little while back, so this is another thing we're up against.'

Speaking last Thursday, Ger was hopeful of a change in the weather that would allow farmers all over the county to get out and get some work done.

' Well hopefully the weekend will give us some decent weather. Maybe it will provide us with the opportunity to get some of the silage in. A lot of the silage would've been cut in the first weeks of June, so most farmers are a good six weeks behind their usual schedule.'

Ger also pointed to the fact that the coming weeks would be of vital importance for tillage farmers, who form a good portion of Wexford's agricultural community.

' The next couple of weeks are critical for tillage farmers with corn and grain. Hopefully we'll have a break in this weather. They also face extra pressures from diseases to the crops this year because the weather is so bad that they can't get out and spray them. Hopefully it's not too late for the tillage farmers and they can still have a good harvest.'

Following Bishop Brennan's plea in recent weeks for church goers to pray for better weather, you can be certain that farmers all over Wexford will be offering up prayers so that they can get back to work and minimise the financial impact of one of the wettest summers for decades.