‘We’re coming through a historically bad year for grass growth’

Irish farmers are coming through a historically bad year for grass growth, according to Teagasc’s Dr. Joe Patton, who spoke to AgriLand at day one of the National Ploughing Championships.

With this, there’s a shortage of winter feed on many farms. Touching on the scale of this deficit, Joe said: “Siobhan Kavanagh in Teagasc ran a survey over the last couple of weeks to try and gauge that [the fodder deficit] and ballpark figures, you’re saying that the gap is 10-15% in the northern part of the country.

“[It’s] probably more like 25% – maybe up to 30% – on average in the southern part of the country. We definitely have a split there.

“Animals have performed well; production has held up quite well. But, there has been a lot of feed already fed and the winter feed situation is looming large on a lot of farms,” he said.

When asked does Ireland have too many cows, Joe said: “In 1988, we had about the same number of dairy cows we have now.

“Obviously through the early mid-1990s and into the 2000s, cow numbers slowly declined with the quota system in place, as productivity increased.

“In the last couple of years, we have had an increase in cow numbers; we are back up to the levels that we saw in the late 1980s and early 1990s and at that stage we we weren’t taking about having too many cows.

“There are probably some farms – in individual cases – that have too many cows, but that’s a tactical thing for each farm rather than an industry thing,” he said.