FARMERS in the Burren are said to be in “dire straits” after almost three months with virtually no rainfall. Despite the thundery downpours experienced in recent days across Clare, much of the north of the county has escaped, with drought-like conditions posing challenges for farmers.
“It will be 13 weeks from the Spring Equinox to the Summer Solstice this weekend,” noted Burren IFA Chairman Michael Davoren. “In my lifetime, I haven’t seen a three month spell without rain. There’s been a slow drought since early Spring, which has badly hit the winterages. The wells and the springs of the Burren are in danger of running dry at this stage.”
Mr Davoren estimated that grass growth is down between 30 and 40%, with some farmers having to use sileage to feed their cattle. “It threatened to rain at the weekend, but there wasn’t a drop. The winterages need a good dousing. The rain will come eventually,” he said, “but you can’t tell that to a cow.”
Water is being tankered currently to the public supply in Carron, but that doesn’t serve everyone. “There are couple of hundred people on the public water supply,” Mr Davoren noted, “but there would be up to 35 people who rely on their own wells. Some are in dire straits at this point. It’s a major problem for anyone in the dairy sector. We have one farmer with more than 400 cows.”
In the east of the county, where rain has been more plentiful, there hasn’t yet been enough to ally farmers’ concerns. Clare Chairman of the ICMSA, Martin McMahon said that grass growth was down by almost a third due to the long dry spell. “When the thunder showers come, they’re a help,” he said, “but that moisture is gone in a day. In any area where the land is light, the grass is tending to burn, growth is down about 30%. Rain is badly wanted and more is needed.”
Mr McMahon added that the fine weather had allowed farmers to get a lot of work done ahead of schedule. “I’ve never seen so much work done so early,” he said. “The silage is getting done earlier, but it is lighter because of the dry Spring. In the long term, there could be a shortage of fodder.”
The O’Callaghan’s Mills native said that with recurrent dry spells were being noted by those in the farming sector. “We are seeing more extremes of wet weather and drought conditions,” he said. There are signs of long term change.”
Nationally, Irish Water said that a hosepipe ban will remain in place until July 21. The utility said that of its 900 drinking water schemes, 27 currently are in drought and 50 are at risk of going into drought. Duane O’Brien Operations Lead for Clare with Irish Water confirmed that the Carron supply is among those in drought. “Carron up regularly gets affected by drought conditions,” he said. “We’re currently tankering water to that and apologise to those customers who are affected.”
Met Éireann has confirmed that May 2020 was the driest since 1850. Its current agricultural forecast notes that downpours have occurred widely, but that rainfall amounts have been highly variable from one location to another. The forecast for the coming weekend is for rainfall from the Atlantic.