Winter has long over-stayed its welcome in this part of the world, I believe. And I sense that all Irish farmers feel the same way.

So, let’s hope the forecast of better weather coming our way over the coming days is accurate.

I walked fields on the Ards Peninsula in Co. Down last week while, at the same time, trying to dodge heavy hail showers.

This is the one of the driest parts of Ireland. But to say that the ground was ‘bottomless’ would be an understatement.

Meanwhile, farmers with breeding livestock are trying to find nooks and crannies in all possible locations, simply to hold cows and calves until the weather improves.

Keeping animals healthy in these conditions is an added and costly challenge, as is the sourcing of silage on those farms where the back walls of silos came into full vision weeks ago.

Winter conditions for tillage

But these are also challenging times for tillage farmers.

The month of March saw twice the normal amount of rain falling in many parts of the country.

The wet spell that we endured prior to Christmas put a premature end to the planting of winter crops at that stage.

And any thoughts on the part of growers that they might get away with a decent spring planting season have been washed away over the past number of weeks – literally.

We are now well past the optimal planting date for spring barley crops. Those that are drilled over the coming weeks will have some catching up to do, if they are to make the grade come harvest.

What a topsy-turvy six months it has been for the tillage sector. Last back end saw growers harvesting record crops of grain, all of which was sold at exemplary prices.

Today, these same farmers are looking out at sodden fields that have yet to be planted. They are using fertiliser that was purchased at record prices while all the other inputs they need over the coming months are 30% more expensive than was the case in 2022.

But that’s enough bad news for one article. The upside is the genuine prospect of better weather to come. Ground quickly dries up at this time of the year.

And if farmers can get on with field work in some sort of timely fashion, it gives them the opportunity to think ahead in a more constructive manner.

But let’s be honest, irrespective of the weather, 2023 is shaping up to be a very challenging year for Irish agriculture. And the same prospect holds for the farming sectors around the world at the present time.

However, hope always springs from adversity.