Belfast Telegraph

Headaches go on for Northern Ireland farmers amid endless heatwave

By Stewart Robson

Farmers voiced their concerns yesterday as the dry weather looked set to continue.

The Met Office has said that the last time Northern Ireland experienced such a dry spell was in 1995.

Forecasters did offer a glimmer of hope for the agricultural industry, saying that patchy showers could arrive in some areas next week, but warned that "it will not be a washout by any means'"

One farmer desperately seeking rainfall is John Ross MacMathuna, who earlier this week had to dig a metre-deep hole to access water for the cattle on his farm in Rostrevor, Co Down.

He said that he had been able to transfer nine cows into grazing fields where water can now be accessed.

However, because no rain has fallen, grass is in short supply for the herd to eat.

"I know there were a lot of new drains put in in 1995 to prevent flooding and dampness, but that now leads to uncertainty as the fields could run dry quicker," he said. "We'll just have to keep an eye on it to make sure there's enough water and to make sure they keep grazing, because there's absolutely zero growth.

"The soil is so dry. The heat doesn't help but the lack of rain is the problem, so even when you've got cloudy weather it does nothing for it.

"If it goes on much longer, it could actually kill the grass off.

Mr MacMathuna said that this could prove to be very costly for the farm.

He added that he'd been made aware of farmers across the province having to use silage that would be stored for winter, when there would usually be less grass growth.

He added: "I was speaking to people in a shop yesterday that sells wrapping and netting for silage.

"People would usually be cutting their second cut of silage now, but obviously there's nothing to cut which means that they're losing business too.

"I've also heard of farmers having to feed silage back to their cattle already which will have a big knock-on effect in the winter.

"Now would usually be the peak growing season. I've actually never heard of that happening ever before."

The Met Office said that although next week could be cooler than what has been experienced recently, the chance of heavy rain is very unlikely.

It said: "There will be slightly cooler conditions but it will be above average for the time of year, probably in the low to mid-20s.

"The problem is the rain is going to be fairly patchy and not all areas are going to get some even if we do get rain.

"A weather front is moving in which is bringing the cloud and it's just going to be seeing if the cloud is thick enough to bring the rain."

President of the Ulster Farmers' Union Ivor Ferguson said: "We have been in regular contact with our members.

"No one is complaining about the good weather, but because it has been hot and dry for so long, which is unusual, it is posing real challenges on farms in some areas. Our immediate concern is water availability for crops and livestock. Also, dry weather has caused grass growth to slow, which will have a longer-term impact when it comes to fodder availability for the winter.

"However, farmers are resilient and resourceful and we will find a way to get through it."

Belfast Telegraph

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