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Dealing With A Lack Of Water

5 May 2020

While many areas of Scotland have now had some much required rain, there are still areas that are extremely dry.  There has been low levels of rainwater this year, which have resulted in low water levels.  We have heard from numerous people, that water supplies are low with some private supplies being dry already.

Back in 2018, we had an exceptionally dry summer.  From this we learned some key lessons, these can now be used to help us prepare for possible water shortages this year.

  1. A lack of moisture in the soil, is a limiting factor for grass growth. If grass growth is limited, sell unproductive stock e.g. cull ewes, another option is to look at co-operating with other farmers for example if there is not enough grass to finish your lambs, agree a partnership share with a neighbour who would normally purchase store lambs.
  2. Plants such as red clover, plantain, etc. are deep rooting and can venture further into the soil to seek moisture, consider adding these to any pasture renewal plans this spring.
  3. Rotational grazing allows for a residual or stubble to be left behind stock, this allows for a quicker response to moisture when it comes, which can accelerate grass growth. Stock would be moved to a fresh break when grass was at 5cm height.
  4. Monitor and record growth rates of stock, to ensure they are growing at the rate required e.g. for a cow to calve at 24 months it is essential the animal has reached 65% of her mature weight at bulling
  5. If establishment is varied within a spring cereal crop and there are shortages of grass for silage, there is an option to make arable silage, to reduce the amount of grass that needs conserved.
  6. Post-harvest, forage crops could be sown e.g. stubble turnips, to fill the forage gap in the autumn and winter months, to give the grass a period of rest.

Kirsten Williams,

Field of dry soil

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