It’s remarkable when you talk to farmers every week how different weather conditions suit different parts of the country.

In the northwest, it has been a textbook year, with first cuts all in and a lot of hay saved over the last day or two.

Further south and towards the east, it’s a different story, with soil moisture deficits starting to take hold and grass growth dropping below demand on many farms.

Unfortunately, we are entering into the driest few months of the year so getting a huge amount of rain at this stage is unlikely.

It’s important to take action early and avoid running into a major feed deficit now or next winter.

If supplementary feed is introduced, it will mean you can stretch grass supplies and keep cattle moving into fresh grass every few days.

Fly activity has also increased in recent days so keep a close eye on dry cows and heifers for any signs of mastitis.

Drought management questions and answers

How soon can I feed round bales of silage after making them?

Silage needs to ferment before feeding so it’s best to leave it four weeks to allow the silage become stable. Feeding bales from two weeks can take place if there are no other options available. Hay is a good option to slow the rotation.

How much water is required for different classes of stock on a daily basis?

Teagasc guidelines recommend that suckler cows need up to 90 litres/day, weanlings need 20-25 litres/day, finishing cattle need 35-60 litres/day, and animals on ad-lib meal need up to 70 litres/day

Should I stop spreading fertiliser on grazing fields?

The risk of losing nitrogen to the atmosphere in the current conditions is high so it is advised to stop spreading fertiliser until rain is forecast and normal weather conditions return.

Try not to top too much in the current conditions.

With paddocks going to seed, the temptation is there to clean off paddocks after grazing, however.

What animals should I feed meal to?

Suckler cows will suffice with silage, calves should be offered creep at the rate of 2kg/head/day. Cattle close to finishing should be drafted off and fed 5kg/head/day of a finishing ration.

How young can I wean calves?

Ideally calves should be left with cows for a minimum of 200 days.

Weaning calves probably won’t do a lot for the situation at the moment as cows will remain outdoors.

If ground conditions were poor and cows had to be housed, there may be merit in weaning early.

Calves should be offered creep to help supplement the diet during the current conditions.

Autumn-calved cows could be weaned and fed silage or hay on bare paddocks and try and allocate fresh grass to weanlings.