Fodder shortage still a threat, says top nutritionist
Just 15 days of bad weather this autumn or next spring would be the difference between adequate feeding and another fodder shortage on some farms, Teagasc has warned.
Despite bumper crops of silage and hay being saved during the summer, farmers are still walking a tightrope on fodder stocks heading into this winter, according to Teagasc nutritionist Dr Siobhan Kavanagh.
"The Teagasc fodder survey of 1,240 farmers found there was an overall average surplus of 8pc across the country, but it also showed that one in five farmers was almost 20pc short of fodder," Dr Kavanagh pointed out.
"Even among the farmers who think they have enough fodder, most of them did their calculations based on a 140-day winter. But if we get an early winter or a late spring, that excess fodder won't be around for long," she warned.
"I would urge lads not to be complacent and start to budget forage from the beginning of the housing period if necessary. Don't be afraid to have two bales left per animal next spring," she said.
The nutritionist added that good quality forage that went unused could be preserved for several years without losing its nutritive value.
While growth conditions were extremely favourable for much of August and September, farmers in drier parts of the country have seen growth curtailed by drought in the past fortnight.
Farmers in parts of Carlow, south Kilkenny, Waterford, Tipperary and Wexford have already opened up silage pits to buffer feed cows as grass growth fell due to a lack of rain. Supplementary concentrate feeding is also being used to stretch grass supplies. However, rain forecast for this week should ease some of that pressure.