Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Farmers will have to identify key priorities

John Maher

The choice of feed to fill the gap will depend on several factors, including your current winter feed supply, quota position, access to grazing area designated for second cut silage and the cost of additional feed.

Each farmer has to identify their key priority. Is it the current feed deficit now or the winter feed deficit?

The decision to use winter feed supplies will depend on the extent of the feed shortage on individual farms. If winter feed is a major priority, then it may be more suitable to feed concentrate now instead of silage.

However, feeding home-grown round bale silage suits many farms as it is cheaper than meal, especially where winter feed supply is ok and the farm is currently over quota. Remember, concentrate prices are projected to fall in the autumn.

For many farms, the solution will be a combination of:

1.Surplus stock disposal;

2.Feeding some round bale silage made from surplus grass;

3.Feeding additional meal.

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To what extent each option is used will be based on your own circumstances and priorities.

If grass growth is about 50pc (30-35kg DM/ha) of normal, then allocating cows additional feed such as 3kg meal and 3kg DM round bale silage is a good way of holding grass supply on the farm.

So, if grass demand for cows is 60kg DM/ha and the stocking rate is 3.5 cows/ha, then allocating 7kg DM of additional feed makes sense to hold grass supply when the growth level is 35kg DM/ha/day. Rotation length is measured by the proportion of the farm grazed each day. It should be about 40 days (1,400kg of cover divided by 35kg growth). For example, on a 20ha farm, graze 0.5ha/day.

Which concentrate?

Many farmers will opt for feeding individual straights to correct the current feed deficit. This is OK, provided that the level of feeding is not high and the straight is fibrous in nature, eg soya hulls, citrus pulp.

However, most of these commonly fed straights are also low in protein.

Grass in a drought scenario is much lower in protein than normal, so caution is urged.

Feeding mixtures of straights that include higher protein content (distillers, corn gluten) will be more suitable where larger quantities need to be fed and where silage is in the diet.

For practical reasons, a dairy ration may be more appropriate. Furthermore, feeding more than 3kg/head/day of citrus pulp is not recommended in a drought scenario.

In the last drought in 2006, there were reports of cows eating stones and plastic, which was due to phosphorus deficiency. Soil P levels are even worse now than in 2006.

Irish Independent