Angus Woods: Drought has a huge impact on the day-to-day life of farms


The 25 percent cut in farm emissions is dominating farm news as policymakers ponder how to achieve those cuts.

Daily operations of farms across the country continue as we grapple with the effects of a prolonged and severe drought.

I’ve given up looking at the weather forecast and checking the various weather apps on my phone. The dry and hot weather on our farm here in Wicklow is brilliant and terrible at the same time.

We run a mixed farm with mother’s milk, beef, sheep and crops, and the lack of rain for what seems like months is making itself felt.

The tillage works well. Winter oilseed rape was sown in excellent conditions last autumn and has not suffered a setback throughout the year.

It was the second time we planted the crop, but the fields are already selected for next year’s crop, which will be sown in the next 10 days, weather permitting.

Spring barley was also sown under excellent conditions and two weeks earlier than normal. It is a crop that does well in our light slate soils and fortunately the small amount of rain we received fell at the right time for the harvest.

Yields were good, which was necessary to cover the massive increase in inputs required for cultivation.

The plan was to get cover crops into the ground as soon as possible after harvest, but we have to hold off until more favorable weather for planting crops.

There are already reports of fields of stubble that have sprouted but have since died due to the drought.

From a crop perspective, the weather has made 2022 an easy year to get work done in the fields on time, and the drought has reduced the risk of disease in the crops.

Economic management was much trickier as input prices soared while grain prices were extremely volatile.

The cattle and sheep farms were doing well up until July, but the lack of rain is having a terrible impact. We always think second cut silage is a bit risky.

In general, it is important to save most of our silage needs in the last week of May and get good grass cover back by the end of June. Luckily the silage yields were good this year.

The drought has left us with no grass growth for the last month and all the grass we had put up is now gone, either eaten by the cattle or burned.

Regrowth after grazing was non-existent and many of the fields on the farm look like they have been sprayed with Roundup. Plans we had for overseeding have been postponed to next year.

All lambs are now supplemented with concentrate feed. Lambs daily live weight gains fell short of target in the last month as grass disappeared.

The suckler cows are fed baled silage and the calves are offered crawling feed to make up for the lack of fresh grass.

Water for the crop usually comes from a naturally occurring spring at a high point on the farm, which is piped to the fields.

In a dry year, this supply can run out in September, but this year it was depleted by July.

Luckily we have a deep well in reserve.

I’m always amazed that there is such a difference in rainfall on our small island. At the moment here in Wicklow we probably have more in common with the south of France than with the rest of Ireland.

Last weekend a friend had a BBQ and, as if it were on the continent, his combine was parked just behind the house hedge for the day, safe in the knowledge that no rain was forecast for the next two weeks, so the harvest could wait. That doesn’t happen too often in Ireland.

Angus Woods is a drywall builder in Co Wicklow Angus Woods: Drought has a huge impact on the day-to-day life of farms

Fry Electronics Team

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