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.

Waterford start-up VirtualVet helping farmers to track animal drug usage
Waterford firm VirtualVet is an international company that tracks drug usage in animals associated with the human food chain.

VirtualVet is one of the agricultural finalists at this year’s National Enterprise Awards, which is taking place on 29 May.

The Waterford start-up formed three years ago and now has five members of staff.

VirtualVet tracks and works to change drug usage in the food chain.

VirtualVet serves three markets:

  • Farmers who must record usage under compliance.
  • Agri-food and animal health industries.
  • Governments monitoring drug usage in the food chain.
  • Services provided

    Speaking with co-founder and managing director of VirtualVet Sinead Quealy, we learned how the company works and gathers the useful drug-usage data.

    “We provide a free service to farmers gathering information on a farm level about their drug usage on animals, which benefits them, as it covers their compliance,” Sinead said.

    “VirtualVet then gets paid for this data by other companies interested in analysing drug usage in the food chain, such as ABP.

    "Pharmaceutical companies also have recently begun requesting this data.”

    “At the moment, 100% of our work is focused on the agriculture sector, but there is potential for movement into drug usage in humans and harnessing the useful data.”

    Assessments

    On reaching the National Enterprise Awards final, Sinead said: “By arriving to this point in the competition, we have gotten the chance to make assessments of the company that we wouldn’t have done otherwise.

    "By preparing ourselves for judging and presentation to the external public, we have been able to make significant improvements to the company.”

    VirtualVet was the winners of this year’s Waterford Local Enterprise Awards and is hoping for success on the national stage this year.

    Awards

    The National Enterprise Awards celebrate small businesses from across the country, focusing on start-ups, innovation and exports, with the finals taking place on 29 May at the Mansion House, Dublin.

    There is over €40,000 in prizes to be won, with the overall winner taking home €10,000.

    Terra NutriTech was last year’s winners, an ag-tech company that specialises in precision liquid supplementation for livestock.

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    Win a tractor for a tenner in charity raffle
    Farmers and machinery enthusiasts have until September to buy raffle tickets to be in with a chance of winning a tractor.

    A 1982 Massey Ferguson 240 is being raffled off this September. The raffle is in aid of Donegal Breast Cancer Clinic and Kevin’s Kids Fund. The tickets are €10 each or three for €25.

    The recently refurbished tractor will be on display at the Inish Tractor Road Run 2019 on Sunday 2 June, which is also in aid of the two charities. The tractor run will leave Malin Head at 11am and tour the Inishowen Peninsula.

    Raffle tickets are available to win this tractor

    “We try to do it for charities that are not Government funded,” said Gary Monagle from the organising committee. “Last year, we raised €23,000.”

    Volunteers

    There are eight people on the committee and they all volunteer their time to organise the tractor run and refurbish the tractor that is being raffled off.

    “A right bit of work has been done on the tractor. There are 2,500 hours on it and it’s from England.

    "All the agricultural shops around the area helped us out by donating paint or whatever we needed,” Monagle said.

    If you want to get involved in the tractor run or buy raffle tickets, you can visit the Facebook page.

    Read more

    Music and machinery at Donegal open farm

    This week in photos: Fermoy Mart and silage cutting
    Our top farming photos from the last week include farmers in Kilkenny, Limerick and Carlow.

    Paddy Kennedy spreading fertiliser

    Dairy farmer Paddy Kennedy from Cournellan, Borris, Co Carlow, spreading 27% nitrogen at 35 units per acre. \ Philip Doyle

    Suckler and sheep farmer Micheál Brendan

    Suckler and sheep farmer Micheál Brendan from Aghclare, Co Kilkenny, feeding his ewes and lambs. \ Philip Doyle

    Tuesday's cattle sale at Fermoy Mart

    John Sweeney from Shanballymore, John McSweeney from Kildorrery, Paddy Geaney from Castletownroche and Michael Clancy from Ballyhooly. \ Donal O'Leary

    Tom and Mike O'Neill from Knockanore, Co Waterford. \ Donal O'Leary

    Auctioneer Martin Lonergan selling cattle for Pat O’Riordan (right) from Ballyhooly, as Kevin Casey records all the details of the sale. \ Donal O’Leary

    Pat McNamara bringing in his cows for milking

    Pat McNamara and his son Shane bringing in their herd for evening milking on the home farm at Honeypound, Croom, Co Limerick. Pat runs a herd of 70 cows that are currently milking 25 litres per day at 3.35% protien and 3.95% butterfat on 3kg of meal. Pat is two weeks into his 12-week breeding season and has used AI on his top 25 cows and is now running an Angus bull with the remainder of his herd. \ Donal O’Leary

    Paddy Freyne mowing silage

    Paddy Freyne takes a break from studying for his Leaving Cert exams to help his brother-in-law Walter Burke prepare first-cut silage on his dairy farm in Tobernabrone, Co Kilkenny. \ Philip Doyle

    Read more

    This week in photos: the Irish Farmers Journal Beef Summit

    Around the Country in pictures

    This week in pictures: sucklers, silage and farm walks

    This week in pictures: live exports set sail from Waterford