Weather woes: ‘The winter is now longer than the summer’

Farmers across the country are doing their best to deal with the difficult weather conditions experienced in recent months.

From heavy rainfall to sub-zero temperatures, farmers have had to put up with everything except for an extended period of favourable weather.

The knock-on effects of this particularly difficult winter will be felt for a number of weeks, according to the chairperson of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association’s (ICMSA’s) Livestock Committee, Des Morrisson.

Speaking to AgriLand, he said: “The biggest difficulty at the moment is grass growth; ground conditions are still cold.

“Grass growth is three weeks behind where it should be; this is also going to delay other work, such as spreading slurry or fertiliser and cutting silage.

The summer is now shorter than the winter.

According to Met Eireann, well-drained soils are trafficable at the moment – but poorly drained soils continue to be saturated. With minimal drying likely and rain or showers forecast over the next few days, there is little improvement expected.

Fodder crisis

Describing it as “a complete joke“, Morrison was also very critical of the Fodder Transport Measure introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine earlier this year.

He maintains that a meal voucher system – if it was introduced immediately – would still be an “easier and more targeted solution, especially now given the rising cost of fodder”.

The fodder situation is worsening, particularly in counties located along the western seaboard, and action is needed as soon as possible to alleviate the problem, he argued.

A difficult year for sheep farmers

Meanwhile, the weather experienced in the past few months has proven very difficult for sheep farmers, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) sheep chairman, John Brooks, said.

“There has been more evidence of twin lamb disease this year due to weather-related stress. Mortality rates during lambing have also been up slightly due to the cold weather,” he added.

With the lambing season well underway, he pointed out that incidents of abortion in sheep have also been on the rise in recent years.

The recent heavy snowfalls provided significant challenges for sheep farmers during the busy lambing season, with snow getting into sheds and lambing pens, Brooks explained.

In relation to grass growth, he concurred that supplies were between two and three weeks behind where they should be.

Brooks added that this may have knock-on effects when it comes to the supply of spring lamb early in the year; but, on the other hand, it might sustain the hogget trade for longer.