Many farmers are two weeks' short of fodder - key advice on how to manage

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Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Farmers should stretch the feed now during the dry cow period, rather than during calving time, if they are still seeing a deficit in their winter feed budget, according to Teagasc nutritionist, Brian Garry.

Based on a fodder survey carried out by Teagasc last October, many farmers were still in a 10pc deficit in their winter feed budget, and that this equates to two full weeks of feed on an average winter.

According to Brian, it is better for both livestock and farmer to address the feed deficit and stretch reserves during the dry period of the cows when nutritional demand on the cow and labour is lower.

He said that it is easier to stretch feed with a dry cow as her energy demand is lower and feeding poor silage is not as big an issue compared to feeding a milking cow.

It is essential to reserve some high-quality silage for cows after calving and provision should be made for this now, according to Brian.

He warned that both baled and pit silage will become increasingly difficult to source as the winter progresses, currently priced at €40/bale or higher in some cases.

He also said that stretching feed supplies now will help prevent a repeat of last March/April where feed supplies on some farms ran out. According to the Nutritionist, some feed merchants are providing dry-cow feed and farmers can avail of this if they are looking at running them through the parlour in the case of insufficient feed space, or training in heifers.

According to Brian based on silage, hay and straw all 4x4 bales cost €40 in yard, meal costing €280/t and minerals are included in meal, feed options where farmers decide to purchase two full weeks feeding during the dry period include:

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  • All silage diet will cost €143/cow        
  • An even split of silage and meal will cost €150/cow
  • A split diet of hay and meal will cost €145/cow
  • Whereas straw and meal will be the most expensive at €223/cow.

These figures are for a 60-day feeding period.  The two-week figures are in the table.

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