Drought-hit farmer brings in straw for Jersey herd

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Tom Perchard, from La Ferme Farm in St Martin, said that if the Island did not get significant and prolonged rainfall before the autumn there would not be enough feed when the Island’s cows went inside in the autumn.

Although 17.2 mm of rainfall was recorded at the Maison St Louis Observatory in St Saviour from 26 July to Monday, it was not even across the Island. Nor was it sufficient to improve soil quality in fields baked dry by weeks of sun.

‘We had a little bit of rain over the weekend, which was fantastic, but the forecast for the rest of the week is for hot weather and no rain again,’ he said.

‘I’m not knocking it, as we’ll take what is going but the amount has got to be quantifiable.’

With grazing land parched and brown, the Island’s herds are already being fed from winter food stocks and complementary foodstuffs such as cattle nuts. The hot weather is also slowing the growth of other forage crops such as grass for making silage.

‘We are looking to purchase food from the UK to bolster our forage crops. It is that serious,’ Mr Perchard said.

Mr Perchard is also looking at bringing in other livestock feed such as sugar beet. However, with demand increasing from farmers in the same situation in the UK and drought-hit countries in Europe, suppliers are holding back on releasing new prices.

Andrew Le Gallais, the chairman of the Jersey Milk Marketing Board (the farmers’ co-operative that supplies Jersey Dairy) said they were spending this week assessing the situation and talking to the industry’s UK dairy adviser before deciding what to do.

Jersey Met Office said the Island could expect temperatures approaching 30°C by the weekend and some long-range farming forecasts are predicting the dry conditions to last until September.

The Island’s largest vegetable grower, Charlie Gallichan of Woodside Farms in Trinity, said that regardless of the rain he was still irrigating crops on a daily basis.

‘We are really grateful for what rain we have had, as it has taken some of the pressure off,’ he said. ‘We have been able to do a bit of field work, such as harvesting daffodil bulbs and potatoes.

‘I expect we will be back to the dust bowl conditions by Friday and we still don’t know what long-term impact this is going to have.’

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