Give some attention to next winter's fodder demands
Published 06/04/2010 | 05:00
The past winter isn't quite over -- certainly not after last week -- yet we need to give attention to next winter's fodder requirements. Following three very difficult grazing seasons, one would wonder if you need silage for the summer as well as the winter.
Past experience showed the value of having a small amount of silage in reserve to feed in very wet weather if cattle had to be housed. Having enough silage gives peace of mind and flexibility with grazing management in difficult conditions.
But surplus silage does not mean you forget about early grass or you keep stock inside until all the silage is used up. This has not been a good year for early grass, with growth up to three weeks behind normal but it is likely to be unusual, perhaps in one year out of 10.
Even this year there was reasonable grass cover by February on land that was closed since late October and it provided good grazing in late February and early March, thereby allowing limited numbers of cattle to be turned out and giving a corresponding saving on silage and feed costs. Keep the focus on grazed grass and early turnout. It is often easier to graze fields in February than in April.
How much silage?
I suspect not many farmers do a feed budget by setting out on paper how many stock and of what weight they will be for the winter months and then deciding how many hectares need to be closed for first cut and second cut (if a second cut is needed).
Table 1, above, shows the requirement per month for different categories of stock.
Suckler cows with calves at foot need high-quality silage fed to appetite or moderate quality silage plus 2kg meal per day, at least up to mating.