Avoid panic buying when faced with fodder shortages – Teagasc

A fodder survey completed at the end of October showed that 1/3 of farmers nationally are still short 15pc of fodder.
A fodder survey completed at the end of October showed that 1/3 of farmers nationally are still short 15pc of fodder.
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Farmers should take the time to evaluate the quality of the silage they are buying in times of deficits or preferably have a reserve of good quality silage on farm, according to Teagasc Advisor Joe Patton, speaking at the recent National Dairy Conference.

He said that one of the key lessons from this years unprecedented drought, was there is a huge value of having a ‘crisis reserve’ of good quality silage for times of deficits especially when cows are reaching peak lactation

“I know from my own perspective we got a lot of calls this year asking what to do when there is only poor-quality silage available or maybe not enough of it plus cows at peak. The answer is there is nothing much you can do that is particularly profitable or appealing.

“The bottom line for replacing the quality grass that we’re used to, is we need to have some degree of quality of silage in the yard.

“Lactation lengths are increasing post quota and stocking rates are increasing its important to note that the dry cow period will we have to remember the dry cow feed.

“A quality silage reserve really simplifies feeding decisions throughout the deficit. The demand for the dry cow feed is equivalent to 800kg DM per cow dry cow feed is standard

 “There is the required 800kg DM per cow of high quality silage or the first four bales per cow equivalent, everything else we’re looking at not award winning but low to mid 70 DMD.”

He explained that feeds are always best valued on the basis of net energy (UFL) and protein (PDI) content per kg dry matter, discounted for potential losses.

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He also said consideration should be given to functional fibre (NDF) characteristics if forage is in short supply. He admitted that value considerations tend to go out the window when faced with a crisis and limited availability of fodder.

Therefore, the advice has to be to recognise the emerging problem early, identify a workable solution and then to act decisively. He said delayed action will limit the available options. He also said buying forage on a per-acre or per-hectare basis is fraught with risk due to potential yield variation.

He also asked farmers to ensure that feed options secured are cost-competitive.

“A major lesson for dairy farms from summer 2018 is to build feed reserves during favourable market conditions to alleviate risk of panic buying.”

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