Looking at Met Éireann rainfall data for the last few months across the country, rainfall in July was between two and three times the long term average in most locations.
Rainfall in August was about 1.5 times higher than normal, while rainfall in September was between 1.5 and two times higher than the long term average.
This extreme rainfall must have consequences, and for many it has meant an early winter, with youngstock and some cows housed much earlier than planned. After a relatively dry week, there is some hope that they will go out again, but in some cases land won’t dry sufficiently to allow that.
One of the key things now is to revise the fodder budget to ensure there is enough feed on the farm. If looking like fodder is going to be scarce, options include buying silage or hay, or reducing non-essential stock like cull cows, beef cattle or surplus heifers.
Taking action early is crucial because there is plenty of fodder available to purchase now, but that may not be the case next March or April when silage is running out.
The last day for spreading slurry in Republic of Ireland is 14 October and a day later in Northern Ireland. With an earlier housing date now likely on most farms, there is likely to be further pressure on slurry storage this winter.
One of the big factors impacting slurry storage is rainwater entering tanks. Make sure gutters are working and downpipes are directed to storm water drains and not entering tanks.
It’s a good idea to check for problems in the middle of a heavy rain shower, as issues will be more apparent than compared to checking things on a dry day.
One of the biggest causes of nitrate losses is spreading slurry during the winter, which is completely unacceptable and must stop.
Where slurry storage is going to be an issue, there are a number of options; Additional storage can be leased and slurry moved to the leased tank. Or slurry can be exported off farm to a farm with spare capacity and who can import slurry.
Neither of these options are particularly attractive, but if the alternative is to spread slurry in the closed period, then they must be considered.
I suspect that with all the heat on water quality and nitrates, there will be a zero tolerance approach from Department of Agriculture and county council officials towards out of season slurry spreading this winter.
Wet weather and warm temperatures are bad news for calves. The risk of parasites such as lungworm and fluke is much higher in wet weather. Stress levels increase, and when combined with changes in temperature it can lead to respiratory problems.
Suckler farmers are reporting plenty of issues in weaned calves, and so too are farmers with dairy calves. It’s not good policy to dose or vaccinate calves when they are stressed due to weather or other issues.
If calves have a lungworm issue, be careful when dosing them, because coughing up the dead worms can increase stress levels. Talk to your vet about when to dose and when to vaccinate for diseases like IBR and RSV P13.
Animal thrive is lower in wet weather, so keep an eye on liveweight and give special treatment such as extra meal and better grass to light animals.