Act now and prevent a fodder crisis on your farm
The potential impact of a fodder crisis has been the primary topic of conversation on farm visits over the past month. Combined with the price of milk and cost of concentrates, farmers are faced with difficult decisions.
The reality at farm level is one where farmers have far greater stock numbers than quota. Plans for a 50pc increase in milk production post quota have already been implemented on many farms. However, the clinical symptoms associated with milk production in 2012 are now in evidence at farm level.
The body condition score (BCS) of cows and size of in-calf heifers is currently too low on many farms. Grass dry matter is also low, resulting in high passage rates (loose) and a loss of BCS in many dairy herds. It will pay to supplement concentrates to your dairy cows now, if BCS is below the target of three.
Next year's breeding programme will be affected by your current dairy herd management methods. One of the primary areas affecting outcome in 2013 is the size of in-calf heifers. They must achieve target weight at calving with BCS maintained in the eight-week period prior to calving. Feed a growing ration to undersized heifers and group heifers by size if the batch as a whole is uneven in weights. You will also need to accurately assess how far along pregnant heifers are to ensure concentrate supplementation can be safely implemented until seven months gestation.
Silage quantity and quality issues should be dealt with this autumn. Large quantities of baled silage are being sold at between €25 and €40 per bale. Silage quality should be assessed before purchase. Poor quality baled silage will cause health problems and reproductive impairment next year.
Baled silage with a DMD of 65 has a maximum value of €28 when compared with a concentrate ration priced at €285/t.
Many farmers are panic buying baled silage at €35 per bale with a shipping cost of €10 per bale to West Limerick and North Kerry. Fodder beet and straw are alternatives as part of the total diet.
The standard practice of recycling empty fit cows on many farms will not happen this year. If feed is limited on the farm, these cows are being sold through the marts.