Farmers ‘not facing second fodder crisis’ due to dry spell
Minister for Agriculture admits rain is necessary but says Irish farming is in ‘much better place’ than last year
Laurence Ward from Oldtown, Co Dublin checks his hay earlier this month. Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said grass growth has stalled due to the recent dry weather, but farmers were not experiencing a second fodder crisis yet. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has rejected suggestions that farmers are facing a second fodder crisis during the current dry spell while conceding that some rain is necessary over the coming weeks to ensure good grass growth for cattle.
Much of the island of Ireland will be in state of “absolute drought” by this evening, Met Éireann has confirmed. Should the dry spell continue, water restrictions are expected to be initiated in a number of areas, while several local authorities have already introduced hosepipe bans.
Speaking in Cork today, Mr Coveney acknowledged that the kind of extreme variations in weather where farmers faced heavy and continuous rain over the winter and spring months before the current hot and dry spell does not suit farming.
“First of all we had 18 months of extraordinary weather in terms of rainfall and that has been followed by probably the best month of weather Ireland has ever seen in terms of sunshine and temperatures. That kind of extreme does not suit farming.”
“What is has done is that it has dried up heavy land that literally would have been waterlogged for over a year. That is a good thing. The last month of weather has been a very good thing for farming,” he added.
Mr Coveney pointed out that farmers have been able to put their cattle out after a long winter indoors and the harvesting of wheat and barley is good, even though grain prices aren’t great at the moment.
“But quality of grain is very good, it is easy to harvest and they are harvesting at very low moisture rates which means they don’t have to dry the grain which means there is a saving there. This has been a really positive couple of weeks for agriculture.
“But we really do need some rain. The Irish agri-system is based on grass growth. We had a fantastic spurt of grass growth immediately after the rain when we had sunshine for about a 10 day period, then some more rain followed by continuous sunshine for a month.”
“We don’t have a crisis yet but certainly grass on good land that is well drained has had its growth stalled. Grass needs temperature and it needs moisture and it is not getting any of that at the moment.
“Obviously we would like to see some rain in the next week or so. But, on the whole, we are not at a crisis point yet. Farmers would like to see more grass growth, it has stalled but it will accelerate very quickly if we get some rain because soil temperatures are very high.
“I am reasonably hopeful that even if we were to get three to four days rain in the next three or four weeks we would see strong grass growth again that would allow farmers a second cut of silage and some farmers even to get a third cut.
“This is a much, much better place than where we were last year and where we were six weeks ago. There is not going to be any dramatic fodder crisis anytime soon in Ireland. But we do have to plan for next winter.”