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Next three weeks ‘crucial’ to a successful year - Limerick farmer

Drought: Silage fed in June as next few weeks ‘crucial’

Dark days: Pat Blackwell, Teagasc; Brian Ryan, Mulcair Veterinary; Sean Ryan, Dairygold; Robert Holmes and Richard Ryan, GVM Kilmallock at a Teagasc / IFA fodder crisis meeting in 2018

THE COUNTY Limerick farmer who helped organise fodder crisis meetings in 2018 says the next three weeks will be “crucial”.

Robert Holmes, a dairy farmer in Dromkeen, said “we badly need rain”. Met Eireann has said that May was the driest since 1850.

“I am concerned about what lies ahead. We are approaching the normal dry time of the year with no reserve of water in the ground.

“It has become more apparent in recent years that, weatherwise, we go from periods of prolonged dry spells to prolonged wet spells. We have had no significant rain since early March – just a few showers since then,” said Mr Holmes.

As grass growth has slowed down considerably, some farmers are feeding buffer silage already to cows, he said.

“Grazing conditions are good with the dry weather but trying to keep quality grass in front of cows is becoming more difficult. In my opinion the next three weeks will be crucial to a successful year from a dairy farmer’s perspective.

“We badly need plenty of rain to get grass growing again and to insure that there will be sufficient second cut silage. 66,000 gallons is needed per acre to get the ground back to parity. That’s three inches of rain,” said Mr Holmes.

The quality of first silage should be good, he says, but volume in pits / bales is much less than previous years.

“Some farmers have some silage left over – this may be a vital asset to have, time will tell. There is no point in trying to predict the weather – or the success of the farming year just yet.

“All we can do is wait and see, look to the sky and hope for the silver lining in the clouds which will give plenty of rain for a couple of weeks. After that it can stay dry again for a while,” smiled Robert.

If the empty clouds continue then farmers like Robert and organisations will have difficulty organising public meetings on a fodder crisis and mental health like in 2018 due to Covid-19. Some lovely rain over the next few days would help wash many worries away. 2018 will be remembered for the drought but also the glorious day when Declan Hannon lifted Liam MacCarthy. Let’s hope we remember 2020 for a repeat of the latter and not the former.

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