Farm Ireland

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Make sure your winter fodder sums add up

Gordon Peppard

Published 29/07/2015 | 02:30

Now is an ideal time to assess your fodder stocks for the winter.

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The first step is a feed demand calculation on winter fodder requirements. It is also advisable to add 10pc extra for factors such as bad weather resulting in early housing or late turn out to grass in the Spring.

The example given is for a farmer with 40 suckler cows keeping all their followers, eight replacement heifers and 50 calf to beef animals. In this case, 712t of silage would be required for a five-month winter with a 10pc buffer.

Next, calculate your feed supply. In this case, 270t of first cut silage is already in the pit- 70 silage bales in the yard are the equivalent to approximately 63t of pit silage. Twenty five acres have been left out for second cut silage with an expected yield of 7t/ac, giving another 175t.

This means demand is 712t and current supply is 508t. There is potentially a shortfall of 204t of pit silage or 224 bales of silage.

The main aim is to take action now and the options include:

* Reduce feed demand, by offloading stock. Sell cull/empty cows (scan early), sell some weanlings in the autumn.

* Feed some meal to weanlings over the winter.

* Maximise grass growth by applying fertiliser and removing surplus grass as bales.

* Buy a standing crop of silage or buy silage bales.

* Buy alternative forages like maize silage, whole crop silage or fodder beet.

* Grow forage crop if suitable.

Once you have at least 50-60pc of your winter silage requirements you have options. Cost is important but other factors also need to be considered, including the risk of poor yields and quality, the need for storage and handling facilities, the cost of balancing for protein and minerals, cash flow implications and feeding space requirements. Consider the options carefully and don't panic buy.

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