Saturday 17 March 2018

Warm weather has had mixed effects

The recent heatwave has had mixed implications for farming in Wicklow, with crop surpluses counterbalanced by reduced grass growth impacting livestock. Lower levels of grass growth have ignited worries about whether or not farmers across the county can produce enough winter feed to supply their stock.

'Grass growth rates are well below what would be normal for this time of year,' says John Keating, Teagasc Regional Manager for Wicklow, Wexford and Carlow. 'Heavily-stocked farms are not producing enough grass to feed their stock fully from grass.'

To combat this, Teagasc advises farmers to implement a thirty day rotation to account for the shortage of fresh grass.

'So, if you have 60 acres of land maybe allocate two acres a day to the stock, and supplement the stock with whatever supplements they require to bridge the gap,' says John. 'With meal in the first instance, up to about 5-6 kg a day, maybe put in two feeds. If the deficit is higher than that, people need to put in silage.'

Water scarcity is another grave concern for livestock farmers across Wicklow as the dry conditions continue to bite.

'Particularly dairy cows which might have been drinking 45 litres per day in normal conditions are now on 100 - 110 litres per day in these dry conditions,' says John. 'It's important that people check their water systems and make sure that their tanks and troughs are filling.'

However, the heat has not brought all doom and gloom, with crop yields exceeding initial expectations.

'Winter wheat yields are coming in quite good; they're getting ideal harvest conditions at the moment,' says John. 'It's important that the straw is bailed and protected because it will be a valuable feed.'

'Later sown and harvested crops - there could be some impact on those depending on the type of soil that they're grown on. Those grown on light soil may experience some consequences if the drought were to continue. But at the moment, crops seem to be yielding well.'

However, sunny conditions could stimulate certain crops to ripen prematurely, which could adversely affect yield and quality.

Wicklow People