We are enjoying the glorious wall to wall sunshine this week in Clara. It won’t do much for grass growth, but it’s important to make the most of this weather on the occasions when it arrives in this country.
We will try to get to the beach with the family for an afternoon this week and maybe an evening or two on the river locally as well.
We had 30mm of rain last week, so we have just about enough grass on the farm to get us through the next couple of weeks without any silage in the diet, so the pit is closed again for the moment.
Meal feeding is also back down at a manageable 3kg again for a few days at least.
Grass quality is stressed and variable, but beggars can’t be choosers, so we will just have to ignore that part of the equation.
It’s been a very strange year in this part of the country, with grass only growing in fits and starts through the summer
Water could be a big concern yet. We have a couple of back-up wells on the farm that we will lean on for a week or two to take some of the pressure off the main well and hopefully that will get us over the hump until we hopefully see some decent rain again.
It’s been a very strange year in this part of the country, with grass only growing in fits and starts through the summer. We are probably the lucky ones, with some farms locally missing the rain and feeding silage and high levels of concentrates right through the summer.
We are seeing similar extremes in weather patterns right across Europe, which are impacting greatly on food production for both human and livestock systems. The last few summers have been drier than average, which is probably a result of global warming, and a strong indication of things to come.
We may need to look at ways of minimising the effect of the dry weather on our farming systems in the south east, especially if these dry seasons persist over the next few years.
Irrigation may not be a realistic option, but maybe more summer cropping, alternative crops or grass varieties could be looked at by our industry researchers to see where gains can be made, in terms of both quantity and quality of forage grown across the summer months.
At the moment, we are looking at some paddocks of grass that are shrivelling up again in the extreme heat for the second time this summer. We can have soil fertility, grass varieties, pH and grazing infrastructure perfect on the farm, but we can’t grow enough grass without enough moisture.
The amount of grass grown may not be as big an issue going forward in any case if we are forced to reduce stock numbers to keep under our sectoral emissions target.
Through various regulations, we look to be moving towards a lower-stocked, lower input system of farming in this country over the next few years.
It’s hard to see this being a permanent arrangement into the future. With a growing world population and food getting scarce again in Europe, we might see a quick enough reversal of recent policies. We do however need to improve our environmental outcomes in this country, in terms of both water quality and biodiversity, to be allowed to produce food at any level into the future.
We have an individual responsibility in this and it’s probably something that we should focus on almost as much as the efficiencies in our farming systems over the coming years.
We have to find ways to produce food with as little impact on the environment as possible and reverse the trends of the last few decades on water quality and biodiversity.
The current task of reducing the agricultural sector’s emissions by 25% is a huge challenge to the future of dairy production in Ireland, but may be a case of tilting at windmills.
The milk that we produce can’t be produced at a lower carbon footprint anywhere else in the world.
Maybe that will eventually sink in at Government level and hopefully too much harm isn’t done to the sector in the meantime.