Start planning for potential drought, says Forage Aid

Forage Aid Trustees are urging farmers around the United Kingdom to start planning on how they will deal with possible drought conditions over the summer months. A very dry spring has left many livestock farmers with limited grass growth to meet the growing demand following lambing and calving. Some farms have reported grass growth to be 40% behind the long-term average and growth continues to be restricted by a lack of moisture.

Forage Aid Founder and Chairman Andrew Ward MBE said ‘After dealing with serious flooding around the country in 2019 the last thing we expected to be warning about in May 2020 would be the potential for another drought. However, after a very dry spring that is exactly what we are concerned about.’

The last drought in the UK was experienced only two years ago in 2018, and after a difficult 2019 many livestock farms may already be running tight for feed stocks. Whilst we can hope that rain arrives in time, hope is not a strategy for good business planning. Forage Aid are asking farmers to start thinking about what actions they can take to protect their futures if another drought takes hold.

‘With careful planning many farmers should be able to manage through a drought period,’ said Neil Wilson, Forage Aid Trustee and Executive Director of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland. ‘Our experience from 2018 was that those businesses who planned for the dry spell were able to cope. We also faced challenges sourcing forage for those in need as supplies were very tight.’

There are several resources available to farmers to help plan for dry conditions. AHDB offer a feed budget planner to help budget throughout the season. Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service also offer feed budgeting advice and Quality Meat Scotland have produced the helpful guide below.

Over the years Forage Aid has helped many farmers following extreme weather events and the most challenging years have been those where drought has been the problem. Sourcing surplus forage for donation in a dry year is exceptionally difficult and makes it much harder to help farmers in need. Planning for the event becomes critical at times like these. Please help yourself and the industry by thinking about it now and use the tools available to build a drought resilience plan for your farm business.

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