Reporter Brian Moore met worried farmers attending a Teagasc clinic at Bandon Mart on Monday about how best to deal with feeding their animals during the drought and having enough fodder for the winter months ahead
FARMERS need to be prepared for a long winter, with hard decisions ahead for all as the drought conditions continue.
Speaking with The Southern Star, dairy farmer Aidan Mulcahy from Bandon said that the country needed a minimum of over two inches (6cms) of rain now in order to alleviate the drought conditions.
‘It is very tight at the moment,’ Aidan said. ‘There is a lot of stress out there with some farmers feeding second cut silage as well as ration. The longer this goes on the worse things are going to get. I am worried about winter feed as I am back to square one when it comes to silage.’
Another dairy farmer, Michael O’Donovan from Newcestown, said that having spoken with the Teagasc advisors early that morning, he was more than aware that there are tough times ahead.
‘Things are very bad, we’re feeding bales at the moment,’ Michael said. ‘There is going to be major financial problems as milk production is down by about three litres per cow and the cost of feed concentrate is also at a premium. If things don’t improve, we are going to have to start looking at selling stock.’
Speaking with farmers at the Bandon Mart this week Teagasc advisors Mark O’Sullivan and John Crowley outlined the actions needed now to prepare from the uncertain winter months.
‘We have to make sure that grass fertility is up to date,’ Mark O’Sullivan said. ‘Rotation length must be held at 20 to 25 days and farmers should feed concentrates first, if silage reserves are very low on the farm; a buffer feed like palm kernel, soya hulls or a three-way mix can also aid in supplementing the feed.’
With the current forecast showing very little rain expected over the next 10 days, farmers are also advised to reduce demand by grazing second cut silage ground.
‘Grazing this ground with a strip wire and back fence can extend the rotation and supplement the feed deficit,’ Mark continued. ‘It is important to keep cows out of the sheds as much as possible. It is also time now to face the possibility of selling stock later in the year as the pressure on cash flow is going to be very tough.’ Teagasc are also holding events throughout the country, which will deal with fodder and feed management in the current drought. At these local events the financial and social / stress aspects of this drought will also be discussed.
• For more information, contact the Teagasc help line at 087-7971377, open daily from 9am to 9pm, or log on to teagasc.ie.