California drought drags milk production down
Water shortages have begun to eat into California's milk production as the authorities impose unprecedented restrictions on usage

Around 400,000 acres of Californian arable land lay fallow as a result of persisting drought and an estimated 17,000 farm workers have lost their jobs. While US milk production increased by 1.7% in February compared to the same time last year, figures compiled by the US department of agriculture show that it was down 3.8% in California.

In an executive order on 1 April, California Governor Jerry Brown imposed the first restrictions on water usage in the history of the Golden State, which has been under a formal drought state of emergency since last year. Cities and town must cut water consumption by 25%, with specific measures targeting flower and lawn watering at campuses, golf courses and cemeteries. Penalties could be imposed on local authorities that fail to meet the target after official figures released on Tuesday showed that Californian urban areas fell well short in February, reducing their water usage by just 2.8% since last year.

“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” said Governor Brown. An interactive map published by National Geographic to explain the Californian water crisis shows that snowpack at key monitoring points is 69% below usual levels. Another map published by the US Drought Monitor now shows nearly all of California to be suffering "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, the two highest grades on a scale of five.

The latest restrictions do not directly target farmers, who have already seen the volumes available for irrigation reduced and compulsory set-aside requirements increased in recent months. However, the state authorities said farms "will be required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state's ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste and unreasonable use of water".

Rain was finally reported in several areas this week - though it often came in heavy downpours and hailstorms, damaging fruit crops locally.

Weekly weather: welcome rain in the forecast
Rainfall will remain below average in parts of the east and south-east, but elsewhere values more likely to be above normal, according to Met Éireann.

Rain is forecast at various stages throughout the week and temperatures are set to remain in the 20’s across the country.

Monday

Met Éireann are forecasting a dry start for the east and south-east on Monday with patchy rain elsewhere producing a few heavy bursts locally. It will dry up in the northwest and patchy rain will move south-eastwards later in the day.

Tuesday

Tuesday is forecast to be a bright and fresh day with some sunny spells and just an isolated shower. Temperatures will reach highs of 16 to 22 degrees.

Wednesday

It will be mainly dry in eastern areas with some sunny spells on Wednesday. In western counties, rain will develop along the coast in the afternoon and will gradually push inland. The rain in the west will become heavy and will then extend eastwards across the country overnight. Highest temperatures 18 to 23 degrees are forecast.

Thursday

On Thursday, further outbreaks of rain will develop during the morning. A clearance will open in the afternoon with just an isolated shower after this.

Friday

Friday is forecast to be a much brighter and fresher day. There will be good sunshine during the morning, but showers will break out in the afternoon.

Farming forecast

Rain

Overall rainfall is expected to remain below average over the coming seven days in parts of the east and south-east, but elsewhere values more likely to be above normal.

Temperature

Temperatures this coming week are expected to be around normal along Atlantic coastal areas. Elsewhere, temperatures are expected to be a degree above average in most areas perhaps up to 2 degrees in the north-east.

Sunshine

There will likely be more cloud around this week and so sunshine amounts will likely remain below normal.

Drying Conditions

There is currently an orange forest fire warning in operation. Drying conditions will be moderate but will reduce poor at times particularly Monday in outbreaks of rain and again along Atlantic coastal counties Wednesday.

Spraying

Current indications suggest generally good opportunities outside of rain Monday and away from Atlantic coasts Wednesday.

Field Conditions

Soil moisture deficits are very high, ranging from around 30 to 60 mm in Ulster and Connacht, with values elsewhere exceeding 75mm. Little change is expected in the coming week apart from some slight relief in the northwest of the country.

Read more

Northern Europe scorched by lack of moisture

Five steps to address winter feed deficits

Drought advice: Irish and New Zealand experience

This week in photos: milking and the harvest continues
Our top photos from the last week include farming in Limerick, Tipperary and Wexford.

This week's front cover: milking in Co Limerick

Eoin Carroll from Ballyvolane, Co Limerick milking cows on the farm of John McNamara in Gormanstown, Co Limrick. Eoin is currently completing the work experience element of his Leaving Cert agricultural sciene project on John's farm. He is working part time on the farm and gaining experience in areas including grassland management, herd health and milking. \ Philip Doyle

Loading cattle in Co Limerick

Paddy Leahy from Kilmallock, Co Limerick transferring his Angus cattle to a trailer, having sold them to Foyle Meats in Donegal. Paddy says its crazy that he has to sell to a factory in Donegal but they are giving him the best price at the moment. Paddy farms Angus, Hereford and continentals. For the last few weeks he has fed them silage and 8kg of meal a day. He says it is a relief to get rid of them due to the drought conditions and the additional costs that that has brought. \ Philip Doyle

My farming week in Co Tipperary

Michael Condon from Newcastle, Co Tipperary delivers zero-grazed grass from Jim O'Leary's farm for feeding. Michael farms with his father and uncle in south Tipperary. The mixed farm is mainly in corn but also rears calves from neighbouring farms. \ Donal O'Leary

Harvesting in Co Wexford

Lester Rothwell harvesting Infinity winter barley in Lacken, Co Wexford. The crop was sown in the first week of October. Lester harvested a separate field of Infinity barley the previous day and got a yield of 3.3t/acre, but was confident that this crop will perform better. \ Philip Doyle

Harvesting in Co Dublin

The Fitzgerald family harvesting in Newpark, north Co Dublin. Cousins James and John are cutting Tower winter barley, along with James' sons Finn and Jack. The crop's moisture is 18.5% with a bushel weight of 67KPH. \ Philip Doyle

Read more

This week in photos: New Ross and Newport Marts

Around the country in pictures

This week in photos: Loughrea Mart and winter barley harvesting