Pat Blackwell, Teagasc advisor
THIS year will be remembered as a great one for hurling but one to forget on the farming front.
The recent dry weather allowed farmers to extend grazing and this was a welcome boost.
In August, the fodder situation looked bleak with fodder deficits of over 40% on many farms.
Late second cuts and good weather for harvesting late silage resulted in many farms making up a significant portion of their deficits.
There are a number of farms where significant deficits still exist.
At a recent discussion group meetings in the east of the county I surveyed participants and the feeling among the farmers was their fodder situation was OK.
Many feel that if they can keep some stock out on grass for a further two to three weeks they will manage the coming winter.
Speaking to colleagues who deal with the drier mid-section of the county they feel that farmers in this area can cope provided they budget in for additional meal and cull unnecessary stock for the winter. Many farms suffered badly this year and that the cost of farming this year will be higher than other years.
On the dairy side the stable milk price helped farmers cope by purchasing meal.
However, this extra spending will hit hard in the winter months when the bills arrive.
On the beef side, confidence loss among cattle buyers has resulted in losses being incurred by farmers who sold cattle in recent months. Morale among Limerick beef farmers has taken a big hit this year.
It will need an early spring and positive movement on the price front to help restore some of the lost confidence.
An important part of this coming winter will be managing the farm finances. It is important to take stock in the coming weeks of outstanding bills and loans.
Many loans require servicing in December. Both AIB and Bank of Ireland have issued public statements asking those who are worried about their situations to contact their local branch or agri advisor to discuss any problems. Flexibility can be exercised if the farmer acts in time.
Outside of this immediate financial planning others will need to plan for a more volatile future.
Weather extremes are impacting Limerick farms on a regular basis. Securing winter fodder needs to become a primary focus on farms where stock numbers have increased. Declining soil fertility is impacting fodder growth potential on many lowly stocked farms.
If you feel you need advice on these issues contact your local advisor or Teagasc offices in Kilmallock and Newcastle West.