Spring freeze hits growth

By Stephen Cadogan

Soils were still too cold for growth in most counties this week, and poor field conditions were exacerbated by thawing snow.

Soil temperatures Tuesday ranged from 0.4C (in Co Dublin) to 5.8C (Sherkin Island in West Cork).

Elsewhere in Munster, soil temperatures Tuesday were 1.0C at Cork Airport, 4.2C at Gurteen Agricultural College, Co Tipperary, 4.6C at Moorepark, Fermoy, 3.9C at Roches Point, Cork, and 5.7C at Valentia, Co Kerry. Soil temperatures of at least five or six degrees are needed for growth.

The low temperatures are due to two weeks of air temperatures four to seven degrees below normal.

This resulted in soil temperatures as much as four degrees below average for the time of year.

This week, temperatures are forecast to average more than two degrees below average. Due to slow grass growth, PastureBase Ireland says the spring rotation planner must be adjusted. Those with little or no grazing completed should aim to have 30% of the farm grazed by St Patrick Day, 60% by April 1, and start the second rotation in mid-April.

Meanwhile, there is some encouragement for farmers from Accuweather, which claims to be the world’s most accurate weather forecaster.

It predicts longer and warmer than normal spells of dry spring weather in Ireland, Wales, and England.

Met Eireann said eastern coastal counties were hit last week by about 110mm of snow, but the West got only 4-8mm, many western and northwestern areas got very little.

Rainfall for this week is expected to be about 75% below average. However, the thaw could cause floods, with river levels in the East and South rising, and one river in Co Wexford rising by a 1m in 24 hours at the start of the week.

There were over 40 calls to the Department of Agriculture’s animal welfare helpline.

At Donard, Co Wicklow, 21 weanlings were reported to have died when snow was blown into their shed. And two cows and six calves were lost at the 365-cow Teagasc Greenfield Dairy demonstration farm in Co Kilkenny.

Milk collections were curtailed up to this week, leading Glanbia to commit 20c per litre (including VAT) compensation for milk lost and not covered by farm insurance.

Teagasc advises dairy farmers to get milking herds to grass as soon as possible. All livestock farmers should do fodder budgets.

Significant crop damage is not expected by Teagasc, but plant nurseries and protected cropping were hit hard.

Weather issues persisted well into this week, principally in Wexford, West Wicklow, North Kildare, upland areas in Dublin and Waterford, through Tipperary and into South and East Galway.

Until mid-week, some areas were still isolated by huge snowdrifts.

Reduced water supply is one of the big issues still being tackled (farmers should check for leaks).

The public are advised by the EPA that private wells for drinking water be disinfected after flooding.

Up to 12,000 people in south Tipperary, including farmers, cannot use local water after kerosene was accidentally spilled into a river.

The recent cold weather has been blamed for up to 55 deaths across Europe, with more than 20 victims in Poland alone, and Storm Emma hit the UK hard too, with a 0.1-0.2% impact on GDP expected, including hundreds of livestock feared dead in north-west England.

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