Farmers old enough to remember previous droughts say that the ferocity of this year’s heatwave is unprecedented, writes Siobhán English.

“In all my years I have never seen it as bad as this early in the year,” says 77-year-old Ken Bryan, who vividly remembers farming with his family in Cork during a drought in the 1950s.

He also remembers the drought of ’75 and ‘76 after he had moved to live in Kildare.

“In both of the bad droughts I remember, they were never as early as this one,” Mr Bryan adds.

“Unlike now, crops back then had matured and were ready for harvesting before the dry spell. It came in September one year so it didn’t affect grass growth either for silage.

“One time it was so bad, though, we had water rations up until October and had to switch it off every night.

“Back in the ’50s most people had small mixed farms, nothing like they have now. We had cattle, pigs and sheep, and a small bit of tillage, so all was manageable. We were totally self-sufficient and lived off the land.”

Mr Bryan believes than intensive farming has made life much more difficult in these conditions, and also during the cold spell last winter.

“Dairy farmers are clearly overstocked, so when we get these severe weather conditions they are just not able to cope,” he warns.

In the 1950s the Bryan family used to draw water from the local river for the animals.

“Thankfully, most farmers now have their own wells, so as long as they have water, they will be fine in that regard,” Mr Bryan says.

“Everywhere needs rain, but if it does come in excess the ground will not be able to soak it up quick enough and we will then face intense flooding.”

Indo Farming