This week the Irish Farmers Journal spoke with farmers from across the country about field conditions on farm after a spell of frost and below average temperatures.
Reports vary greatly from region to region with farmers in the southeast reporting favourable sowing conditions while in the northwest soils remain quite heavy.
Tillage, Co Donegal
“Although rainfall has been relatively low on the farm in the past week, (13mm), no spring crops have been planted yet, with only about 2% completed locally.
“All our own ploughing is done, but with frost the last few nights and last weekend’s poor forecast, it was decided to postpone our own sowing a few days.
“The hope is to sow by the weekend, and two good days with the one-pass system should start and finish the spring planting. Land had been very wet until recently, but the northeast wind for the past week or so has led to soils drying well.”
Suckler farmer, Co Sligo
“Things have improved slightly in the past few days, but from a low base. The past couple of weeks have still been very cold and wet in Sligo.
“Cows and calves have been out a few weeks, but one group were rehoused for a week to stretch what grass was left as growth has been very slow, but otherwise clean-outs and utilisation have been good.
“A few cattle have started to appear from sheds locally, but ground is still sticky at best. The rise in temperature this week will hopefully see a further improvement in ground conditions and a real kickstart to grass growth.”
Sheep farmer, Co Donegal
“In true northwest Ireland style, it has been fairly cold and wet up until now. There were a few dry days in early March where we got lime applied, but the following weekend was a washout.
“A lot of the lambing around Donegal is in full swing, with perhaps a few flocks coming towards the tail end.
“Despite the cold, the weather hasn’t been terrible for lambing, we had snow on a couple of days lately but it is better than days of incessant rain we’ve had other years.”
Tillage, Co Derry
“Ground conditions are still very challenging, with rainfall failing to stop for any length of time to allow any real drying of land at all.
“Very few spring crops have been sown as of yet around locally, anything that has been planted is in very dry land. We have some field work done, but most is yet to do before sowing can start.
“Ground temperatures are still quite low so the growth is not there yet anyway if we were able to travel fields. Some winter crops are looking OK, but temperatures and rain are starting to have an impact.
“Water lying on some patches of fields show just how saturated land still is.”
Dairy farmer, Co Cavan
“Ground conditions are improving in the past week or two, our land is quite varied but the heavier soils are drying out well.
“Cows are back out grazing full-time since 7 April. We have grazed 95% of our first rotation, and cows are grazing second rotation by night to help with the transition.
“A total of 40% of our herd being autumn calvers helped get a lot of the farm grazed early, with cows out full-time from 24 February, but were back in for five days in early March, and in by night up to last week. Growth is slow but improving.”
Suckler farmer, Co Cavan
“Ground conditions have picked up well in recent weeks. Cows and calves have been out for the last few weeks, and the last of the yearlings and other cattle were let out this week.
“They could have been let out last week, but I wanted to finish the last of the silage pit. It has been a long winter, with some cattle in since the weather broke before the end of October, but that being said, animals did a great thrive.
“I kept some store lambs over the winter months and grass was slow to come back since, but growth is starting to improve and hopefully will really kick off this week.”
Dairy famer, Co Kilkenny
“It has been a good spring all round here. Cows were able to get out early and ground has stayed perfect. We haven’t had any heavy rain here for three weeks, just showers now and again.
“The ground temperature is still fairly cold though, and recoveries after grazing have been slow. But otherwise any ground with a good cover has continued to grow well.
“We’re well into the second rotation and I’m very happy with how cows are cleaning out paddocks, and once temperatures heat up a bit this week it should really set us up well for the summer.”
Dairy farmer, Co Tipperary
“Field conditions have been great this spring. Bar a few short spells, the cows have been out a lot since mid-February.
“The good ground conditions have allowed super clean-outs to be achieved across the farm. Cows were in for the first five days of April due to rain, which slowed grazing just enough to line up with targets, and the second rotation was started on returning to the paddocks.
“Growth had been relatively good up until the cold spell of recent weeks. Regrowth has been poor since, but it will hopefully start to pick back up in the next week as temperatures improve.”
Dairy calf to beef, Co Mayo
“The best way to describe the spring this year in Mayo would be up and down, but not bad overall. I was able to get all the cattle out in early March, and even after being rehoused for a while, we still got 17 days grazing in the month.
“Getting the cattle out early and the great clean-outs that were achieved in the first rotation has set the farm up well for regrowth.
“Growth in April has been slow so far, but a difference can definitely be seen this week. Ground conditions are also improving well, having been tricky up until now.”
Dairy farmer, Co Cork
“This spring has been fantastic for getting out cows to graze. The calved cows were let out in the final days of January, and they’ve been out full-time since.
“A lot of work has gone into picking the right paddocks to suit weather conditions and setting them up in order to keep the cows out, but it has been worth it.
“The second round was started in the first week of April, but regrowth have just not happened until the last few days.
“Everywhere is starting to green up again after a cold couple of weeks. Brilliant clean-outs have also allowed lime to be applied after the cows.”
Tillage farmer, Co Wexford
“We’ve had a good spring here in Wexford. Ground conditions were great for field work. All the spring crops are up except for the last 30 acres, which should be up by the weekend.
“I began sowing 17 March, and good progress was since. The threat of a poor forecast two weeks ago put the panic on to get work done, but the rain didn’t come so planting was completed in good conditions. The weather has been fairly mild so far, but the frosty nights has slowed growth.
“The cold nights have also paused sprayer work also, but the hope is to get out this weekend.”