Livestock farmers urged to get 'proactive' on fodder
Deals need to be struck on catch crops and quick rotation silage, says Teagasc
Livestock farmers should maximise the potential of the recently announced fodder aid package by agreeing contracts with neighbouring tillage farmers for catch crops or quick rotation silage.
The €2.75m fodder aid scheme announced by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed last week aims to double the area of catch crops sown each year to more than 45,000ha.
However, Teagasc tillage specialist Michael Hennessy said livestock farmers would have to be proactive in approaching tillage farmers to grow the crops for them.
"Livestock farmers will have to come out and ask for this. They will have to be proactive if this is to work," Mr Hennessy said.
He cited the experience of the whole-crop cereal market this year where there were four cereal growers willing to sell crops for every livestock farmer who wanted to buy. The fodder scheme gives a payment of €155/ha for tillage growers who grow a temporary crop of short rotation grasses for fodder production over the winter months, and €100/ha for those growing catch crops such as fodder rape or turnips.
Mr Hennessy said the measure was "very positive" for tillage growers and would particularly suit those in spring cereals.
However, he added that the crops would have to be planted quickly to ensure a good yield and this left a narrow window for farmers to agree deals.
Announcing the package, Minister Creed said that farmers growing between 3ha and 50ha of temporary forage crops, additional to that already grown under GLAS, will be eligible. A GLAS participant may apply for the measure on tillage land not in receipt of GLAS Catch Crop aid.
"I am acutely aware of the need to prepare for the winter ahead. I have been actively engaged with the Fodder Group and through their work, maximising production of home-grown fodder is a collective priority this autumn. Through this incentive, I am encouraging tillage growers to actively engage in the fodder market," Minister Creed said.
This initiative will provide a significant additional fodder supply for the livestock sector, the minister maintained.
The announcement was welcomed by the IFA, with association president Joe Healy commenting that the measure would be of benefit.
"Growing fodder crops on tillage ground has the potential to play a part in closing the national fodder deficit arising from drought." Mr Healy said.
However, there is widespread agreement within farming that the catch crop initiative on its own will not alleviate the fodder shortage. Teagasc estimates that livestock farmers are currently short of around nine million tonnes of silage for the coming winter. Teagasc dairy specialist George Ramsbottom said that a suite of measures will be needed to see the livestock sector safely through the winter.
He forecast that the catch crop initiative might make up 15pc to 20pc of the overall fodder shortfall, but that further actions are required at farm level. Farmers should immediately fertilise any ground with green cover to get the most out of paddocks for the remainder of the year.
Teagasc's PastureBase service shows that grass growth has topped 33kg/ha/day across the south and has hit over 60kg/ha/day in the north-west.
Meanwhile, Mr Ramsbottom said farmers should continue supplementing cows with 5-6kg of concentrates per day for the autumn to take the pressure off grass demand.
He also advised farmers to cull "lower performing cows", although he admitted that herd owners have been reluctant to do this up to now.
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