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Thursday 2 October 2014

Essential feed plan in a time of poor grazing

Published 01/05/2013 | 05:36

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A Castleisland farmer taking home cattle fodder - nine out ten farmers believe they won't have enough fodder for the coming winter and spring

Grazing conditions are poor, grass dry matters are low and regrowths are poor because of low temperatures.

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The only good news is that with much of the land grazed early, grass quality in second and subsequent rotations should be very good. However, until the weather improves we need to ensure all cattle are properly fed. This may mean many cattle will need a combination of grass, meals and silage/hay/straw.

Many farmers are out of fodder and are buying silage/straw and hay from other farmers and through local co-ops. With heavy rainfall in recent weeks much of the heavy land cannot be grazed.

Dairy Cows: For dairy cows that are out by day and getting 5 - 7 kgs. of silage DM at night, 4 kgs of a high energy ration is needed. If the animals are indoors full time 8 kgs. of ration is required.

If silage/hay is limited to 4 - 5 kgs DM and no grass is available, an extra mid day feed of 4 kgs of soya hulls is recommended. This is extremely high meal feeding and great care should be taken during a gradual buildup and also when reducing down to more normal levels of meal feeding.

If dairy cows are out by day 14-16% protein is adequate, but if they are indoors full time 18% protein is required. If rationing forage and feeding a lot of meal make sure all animals can feed together and that water is available at all time.

Grazing: Two - three hours grazing daily would help maintain performance. Ensure the calcium level in the ration is adequate to protect against grass tetany.

If cows are indoors feed the best silage available. Round bales are very suitable in times of emergency .

Maiden Heifers: If these have to be housed now they should be supplemented with 2 - 4 kgs. of meal. Its most important that their diet is not restricted now with the breeding season started but they can be bred successfully indoors.

Suckler Cows: If these have to be housed, ensure they get good silage/hay. If the calves can be left out during the day, it will help to maintain performance. Calves will benefit from extra meals during periods of bad weather. If fodder is scarce, restrict silage and feed 2 - 4 kgs of meal /day to the cows.

Grazing silage ground

If grass supply is in very short supply, grazing some or all of the silage ground will help to extend the grazing rotation during spells of bad weather. However, poaching should be avoided at all costs. There will be adequate time during summer to make extra silage.

Fertiliser: Apply nitrogen fertiliser as soon as conditions allow, but never before heavy rain. If fertilised silage ground is grazed, top up with 30-40 units/acre to ensure a good crop in mid/late June.Continue with 27-40 units N/acre on grazing ground.

Kerryman

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