Opinion: We need to explore new solutions to fodder crisis
My father is a great believer of the saying "old hay is old gold".
I tend to sail a little closer to the wind myself and most years I find I am using up the last few bales of silage and straw as the grass growth takes off.
This year I am now sailing into the eye of the fodder storm.
We are down to our last 20 bales of silage and like a lot of farmers we are relying on purchased bales.
Fortunately, we can transport the bales ourselves so that helps cut costs.
Meal feeding levels have increased and all stock is far from ad lib silage now in a bid to stretch it as far as possible.
Replenishing feed stock for next year will be the next issue. The question is should we now prepare for the possibility of another year of extreme weather or plan ahead for an average year in terms of feed stocks, shed space and stock turnout dates and deal with extreme weather when it happens?
One thought that struck me is that maybe farmers should be looking at a collective solution to the potential problems posed by extreme weather events.
Those that are lowly stocked and have surplus meadows could sell the grass at harvest time instead of making bales and placing them in the corner of a field in the hope someone will purchase them next spring.
A grass meadow should be now seen as a valuable crop. Tillage farmers struggling with poor grain prices could also look at contract growing crops like fodder beet or maize for livestock farmers.
This might also suit farmers in an area where there is no land available to rent or lease.
Last week I noticed some of the younger calves with a bit of a scour.
They were well able to drink all the milk available from their mother so I decided it wasn't a milk scour.
I sent a dung sample to the lab and it turned out to be cryptosporidium.
On veterinary advice from my vet club we started all affected calves on Halocur to treat the scour.
Two of the worst affected calves were also treated with electrolytes in the form of Life Aid Xtra, a powdered solution to help treat those with dehydration.
They have pulled through, but it also got into the lambing shed and some of the late lambs weren't as lucky. I am more disappointed as to how this got into the farmyard and sheds.
While we use a lot of straw and lime, it turns out that lime as a disinfectant has no effect on the disease.
Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite that is common in the environment and is similar to coccidia.
I may have to re-examine bio -security on the farm.
While everyone is welcome to visit the farm at any time of the year, maybe we should be limiting the throughput of people during calving and lambing.
This also crossed my mind earlier this year when there was a campaign against dairy farmers on social media.
It is a time of year when all sights on the farm may not be perfect like a sick calf, a lame cow in the field or a weak lamb trying to survive under a lamp.
These are normal challenges for any busy farmer, but can be distressing for some people and photos of these posted on social media could have a negative effect of agriculture.
More slurry has been spread in the past few weeks whenever we got the chance as tanks were filling up again.
No fertiliser has been spread due to poor ground conditions and land is very hungry looking.
John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary
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