The role of Straw in Irish Agriculture

by Aonghus Giggins July 30, 2019

The role of Straw in Irish Agriculture

As we approach the start of August, the Irish grain harvest has been underway for the past two weeks. In contrast to the 2018 harvest, early indications are that yield and quality are greatly improved. The first cereal to be harvested in Ireland is always winter barley. Sown in late September and early October this crop has a nine month growing period. For all growers, the harvest is always eagerly anticipated in order to see the fruits of their labour.

 

On the back of a very favourable growing season, barley crops have performed excellently. Irish grain yields are among the highest in the world, with production this year ranging between 8.5 and 11 tonnes per hectare at moisture contents of 14% - 18% (160 -200 bushels per acre for any North American readers!). Winter grown barley is exclusively used by the domestic animal feed trade, as opposed to spring grown barley which is commonly used in the brewing and distilling industries to produce many of Ireland’s favourite whiskeys and beers.

Unlike in many grain growing regions throughout the world, a relatively high value is place on the straw portion of any cereal crop in Ireland. Sectors in which straw finds demanding markets are from livestock farmers, the equine sector and the mushroom growing industry. Given the abundance of grassland in Ireland, pasture based dairy, beef and sheep farms are the dominant farming enterprises. A relatively low national cereal growing area (260,000 hectares or approximately 7% of Irish farmland) results in a keen demand for straw from livestock farmers.

 

Straw is used for both bedding and feeding animals during their winter housing period. In recent years, it has not been uncommon to see the price of straw matching the price of grain on a per tonne basis. From last years highs, straw prices have returned to about €18-€20 per 4x4 round bale (equating to €120 per tonne)

 

A certain percentage of straw is used to produce mushroom compost. The straw is finely chopped and added to other compostable materials to produce a growing medium for the very important mushroom growing industry in Ireland.

If you would like to learn more about Irish grain growing or wish to take a tour with us and visit such farms in person, then contact us today on hello@farmtoursireland.com or +353 87 2227869.




Aonghus Giggins
Aonghus Giggins

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