How to make feed price hikes easier to swallow
With concentrate prices soaring, just a few simple changes to your routine can help cushion the blow
Higher grain prices this year have already resulted in high concentrate costs. There is still a degree of volatility in the grain market due to uncertainty about global supplies and the actions of speculators but we can assume an increase of about €50/t in concentrate rations.
The size of the impact of this on winter feed costs depends on the type of animals, the system of production, level of performance required and silage quality.
The greatest impact will fall on finishing systems where large amounts of concentrates are fed. A €50 increase in meal costs adds up to €60/hd to the cost of an ad-lib finishing system and about €30/hd to the cost of a silage: concentrate finishing system where steers are finished for 120 days.
How can I mitigate the impact of higher meal cost?
- Grazed Grass
Aim to maximise the use of grazed grass by allocating grass to animal requirements. In many cases, just about 60pc of the grass grown is utilised efficiently. If there is plenty of grass available do not be tempted to waste grass by allowing stock to graze over large areas. Use temporary electric fencing to split up large fields into three-day blocks or less. This gives better utilisation, while allowing the grass ahead to continue growing and the grazed areas to recover fast. Any extra weight you get on before housing reduces winter feed costs. By maintaining performance on quality pasture and extending the grazing season, there is less weight to be put on indoors. Also, plan for early grass to shorten the winter at the other end.
- Feed Budget
Before you start purchasing any feed, do a feed budget to establish how much feed you require, how much you have in store (silage, hay, grain, roots, etc), its quality and then calculate your purchase price.
Silage quality should be better than average this year as a result of the good weather in May and June for first cuts and in August for second cuts. Spring calving suckler cows on moderate quality silage need no concentrates -- just feed a mineral supplement on the silage pre-calving.
There should be scope for meal saving with autumn/winter calving cows, weanlings and store cattle over the coming winter where an adequate amount of well-preserved silage is available. Every three units improvement in silage digestibility will save about 1kg meal/hd/day. It is worth having your silage analysed if you are unsure of its feeding value.