Dismal start to summer puts farmers under pressure

Sue Doherty

Reporter:

Sue Doherty

The dreadful start to the summer, one of the worst on record in Donegal, may make life miserable for us all but, for farmers, it’s even more serious.

The dreadful start to the summer, one of the worst on record in Donegal, may make life miserable for us all but, for farmers, it’s even more serious.

As Met Eireann reported a range of horrible weather statistics for Donegal in June, the Donegal chairman of the Irish Farmers Association warned that a crisis looms if the weather doesn’t break soon.

A total of 50.9mm of rain fell on Malin Head on June 22, the highest daily rainfall there since 1955, and above average rainfall was recorded on thirteen days. It was cool as well, the coolest June in 21 years, with a monthly mean temperature of just 11.6 degrees. There was even widespread groundfrost on June 10, with a ground temperature of minus 1.6 degrees recorded at Finner on that date. And it was windy, with month’s highest gust of 49 knots (91km/h) at Malin Head on June 15.

Peter O’Donnell of Irish Weather Online is forecasting more windy, wet and unsettled weather for this weekend, with a possibility of thunder and even hail.

Yesterday, Pearse Doherty TD warned that the wet weather spells more bad news for our farmers. “With the high percentage of disadvantaged land, farmers in Donegal consistently earn a fraction of the national average in terms of farming income. This year, the problem is likely to be exacerbated with the worst June in decades taking its toll on harvesting. The Government must respond to these issues, if we are to see the farming sector in Donegal thrive into the future.”

His concerns were echoed by PJ McMonagle, chair of Donegal IFA. “One of the problems is that most of the sileage is not cut because it’s too wet to get in. One farmer in Churchill told me today that he would normally have 200 bales cut by this stage but he only has 50 cut so far this year.

“The grass is waterloged and starting to rot. Farmers are caught between a rock and a hard place because, if you don’t get the crop in time, it rots. If you go in when it’s wet though, the machinery ruins half the crop and the land for the next crop.

“We also can’t spray barley or potatoes unless we get a dry day. All we’ve been getting is a few dry hours here and there.

“With no immediate improvement forcecast, it’s really becoming a crisis.

“If something doesn’t happen int he next ten days, cattle are going to have to come in. That’s no answer though, because the cost of feed went up again, by another €10 per tonne at the start of the month. The cost of fuel, fertiliser and fuel is unreal and, even though we’re getting good prices for our animals, it’s getting harder and harder to make a living off farming.”