The call for urgently-needed rain was finally answered, as farmers right across the island woke up to drops of ‘liquid sunshine’ on Sunday, July, 15th - the rain dance worked wonders!
The desired soft rain arrived on St. Swithin’s Day, following a four-week-period which saw nationwide drought conditions.
Legend has it that conditions on Sunday, July, 15th sets the tone for the next 40-day period, which means that those who are superstitious are of the opinion that it is going to rain continuously for forty days and forty nights, but let’s just sit tight on this one for the moment - it is Ireland, so anything can happen!
The pressure mounts
Several farmers are still under extreme pressure, as grass growth has remained slow and practically ceased in some counties for the past month, but there is hope that this rain will encourage growth. Just casting a quick eye on the forecast for this week, it looks like that dry conditions and a few showers are on their way, with high temperatures in the mid-twenties and some sunshine - so a mixed, but promising bag in store.
As a result of the drought conditions, farmers have been forced to tap into next winter’s fodder reserves which is yet another nail in the coffin for the industry, following on from the earlier fodder crisis, which had a damaging impact on farmers both mentally and financially. Stories of dairy farmers who were forced to reduce their herd size or sell all stock put the harsh reality of the situation into perspective. All of this is far from a distant memory for many and cannot be pushed under the carpet.
Fodder Availability and Rush Bales
The scramble for surplus fodder begins in preparation for next winter and it is proving to be one difficult search for many, so far. While farmers have solely placed their faith in straw as a bedding option, the majority are now eyeing-up alternative options, as the availability of straw and cost price remains a major concern.
There appears to be a woeful quantity of dry rush bales advertised for sale as “ideal for bedding”, with a price range between €5-€12, while others are offering the bales free to take away from the field. I know of some farmers who apply a base layer of rushes before they add straw and they claim that it works well, but again, people sit on two different sides of the fence when it comes to this particular argument. I guess this time next year, we will have a general idea of how the rush bedding fared out.
Meanwhile, those that can get their hands on quality hay/silage/haylage are paying top prices, as many fear as a repeat of winter 2017-2018.
The next number of weeks is going to be important for farmers, as planning for the autumn and winter gets underway - it is time to get the head now in an attempt to gather one’s thoughts.