Farm Ireland

Monday 20 August 2018

Farmers forced to sell cattle as fodder shortage bites

There is uncertainty around fodder supplies
There is uncertainty around fodder supplies
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farmers in the North West are having to sell cattle, as a second year of bad weather over the summer months means poor fodder quality and shortages.

Leitrim IFA Chairman James Gallagher said rain levels this summer have made it a disaster for many farmers between Donegal, Letrim and Sligo.

He said that this is the second year of bad weather over the summer, leaving many farmers with no option but to sell stock. "If the rain fell in November when cattle are indoors anyway and silage had been cut, it would be ok.

"But, a poor summer last year meant many farmers had to buy meal early this year and due to poor quality fodder and many faced credit issues when they went to merchants to buy fertiliser.

"Now even though the quality of silage is better this year, we are seeing a lot of second cut silage still in the fields. Farmers have had to get cattle off the land as it is saturated and many do not have the fodders, so have to off load the cattle."

He also said that transport costs to the region means that buying straw is too expensive. "There is a lot of straw still out in fields that won't be saved at this point. And with round bales costing €20-30, add transport costs and it's too much for many farmers."

Louth-based nurtitionist Gerry Giggins says many livestock farmers will struggle to fulfil their silage requirements.

"There will also be challenges surrounding the balancing of the animal's protein and energy requirements due to poor quality and quantity of second cuts.

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"Another major trial will be to replace straw where it has previously been an essential part of an animal's diet.

Huge parts of the country, particularly the north-west will have huge deficits in forage quantity. The gaps between the very wet spells of weather have allowed some farmers to snatch the opportunity to make late silage. The damage evident in these fields suggests that this late silage won't be of high quality with issues such as soil contamination and poor mineral content."

He said that without sufficient straw, add-lib diets in particular will be hard to keep right. "Rumen health is where straw has its biggest benefit. Straw is the most effective source of structural fibre."

he said that in a number of finishing rations that I have formulated for clients this autumn, I have had to reduce straw from the desired 0.75kg/head/day to less than 0.50kg/head/day.

"To overcome this, and to ensure rumen health, I am including both a rumen buffer and yeast as part of the mineral supplement pack."

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