The current heatwave has not significantly depleted winter fodder supplies in the east and southeast, according to Teagasc’s George Ramsbottom.

However, the dairy specialist cautioned that the long-term impact of the recent record temperatures will depend on rainfall levels over the coming weeks.

“I don’t expect any fodder shortage problems at the moment, but it depends how long the dry spell lasts,” Ramsbottom said.

“Obviously, circumstances vary from farm to farm, but I’d say the fodder situation is generally in hand,” he added.

Strong yields

While highly-stocked holdings were supplementing herds with concentrate feed and baled silage, or zero-grazing second-cut crops, Ramsbottom pointed out that yields from first-cut silage were generally very strong.

“The drought has certainly added to the cost of milk production, but if we get rain over the next week or so, then you could get a great burst of growth for the back end,” he maintained.

“You have the heat in the ground, the soil is aerated and you have the nutrients.”

Cooler temperatures

Met Éireann has forecast cooler temperatures for the week ahead, with showers rather than persistent rain for most of the country.

“There is an amount of the rain wanted for this part of the country,” said Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association (ICMSA) deputy president Denis Drennan.

The Kilkenny farmer said most heavily-stocked dairy units in the southeast are currently feeding silage or maize and some have been feeding since June.

“Anything that has been grazed is gone brown. And where there is some grass cover, the grass is literally wilting in front of you,” Drennan maintained.

He said most farmers have ample fodder stocks to deal with the current difficulties, but he reiterated that rain is needed.

While water supplies have not been affected by the drought, the ICMSA representative commented that he had never seen the River Nore as low.

The rainfall average for July at Johnstown Castle was one-third mean levels, while Oak Park got just 43% of its normal rainfall.

The difference in weather conditions across the country is reflected in the latest PastureBase grass growth figures.

While grass growth in Wexford has collapsed to 33kg/ha/day on the back of last week’s searing temperatures, the levels recorded in Mayo were double those of the Model County or 66kg/ha/day.

“If this trend continues, the west will be sending fodder to the southeast,” Drennan commented.