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Wednesday 21 November 2018

Silage costs slide but many farmers still in fodder deficit

Costs ease by over €10 for baled silage as autumnal grass growth surge continues

Wayne Smyth of GWM Smyth contractors cutting the second crop of silage in Knockdrumagh Co Carlow last month. Some contractors expect to be working into November on a third cut as autumn grass growth eases fodder concerns in the south and east. Photo: Roger Jones
Wayne Smyth of GWM Smyth contractors cutting the second crop of silage in Knockdrumagh Co Carlow last month. Some contractors expect to be working into November on a third cut as autumn grass growth eases fodder concerns in the south and east. Photo: Roger Jones
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Fodder prices have dropped sharply over the last month as the volume of silage harvested has taken the edge off the market.

Round bales of silage were making €40-45/bale in the south and south-east particularly but are now trading for €30-32/bale collected.

Around €300/ac has been paid in south Munster for recently cut silage for the pit, with €1,200/ac paid for maize.

Demand for straw has also eased, with €75/bale being quoted for 8x4x3 bales of barley straw. This is back €10/bale from the height of the market.

Fodder traders report that farmers are in no rush to purchase stocks at the moment and are "standing back" from the market in the expectation that prices will fall further if the current fine weather continues into November.

The fodder situation in the south-east, the worst-affected region during the summer drought, has bounced back over the last month on the back of excellent maize and silage yields and very strong grass growth.

The proportion of farmers who are facing serious winter feed deficits has fallen to around 15-20pc. The average deficit for stockowners who are short of fodder is around 20pc, but Teagasc advisors in the region said the situation varied greatly from farm to farm.

Wexford-based drystock advisor Kay O'Connell said fodder supplies in the county had been helped by strong yields in recently cut silage and maize crops.

Farmers were expecting silage yields of five to six round bales to the acre, she explained, but they generally got seven or eight bales an acre.

Dungarvan-based dairy advisor Brian Hilliard said the overall fodder situation has been helped by the excellent grass growth.

Spring grass covers

Teagasc's Pasturebase service put current grass growth levels in the south-east at 36-40kg/ha/day, and the fine conditions are forecast to hold for another week at least.

However, Mr Hilliard said the fear now is that farmers will continue grazing for as long as possible over the next month to minimise their winter fodder needs and will consequently deplete spring grass covers.

Ms O'Connell warned that while the situation had improved over the last month, around one-fifth of farmers were still short of fodder.

"Hope isn't a strategy, and farmers won't be able to depend on their neighbours this year. So we're warning everybody to prepare for a five-month winter," she said.

Ms O'Connell said farmers will have to prepare a fodder budget at housing. Where farmers have to restrict silage feeding, they should do so early on before cows start calving.

Farmers are also being urged to build in a fodder buffer where possible.

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