Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Reducing stock saves feed store

Reducing stock numbers is a key part of lowering feed demand on farms where grass and fodder are scarce.

Where dairy cows have been identified to be culled, farmers should consider once-a-day milking and ramping up feeding levels to allow the stock to be sold earlier.

On beef farms, grass and fodder can be saved by weaning autumn calving cows, if not already done. In-calf heifers, weanlings and stores can all be put on restricted silage plus meals.

Consider early weaning for cows due to calve in February or early March. Calves can also be put on a forward creep system, rather than meal feeding weanlings.

Heat stress is a risk on farms at the moment so avoid housing animals where possible and keep a close eye on drinkers. Dairy cows at the Greenfield farm drank 100 litres of water per head per day last week.

A good supply of clean water is essential at all times for lactating dairy cows. Many farms are already experiencing water supply issues and if dry feeds like concentrate and silage are fed, the pressure on water supply increases. The grass dry matter content will also increase. Whether you feed silage in the yards or field should be dictated by where you have the best water supply.

Soil moisture deficits are running at more than 75mm or three inches on well-drained soils in the southeast and more than 40mm on well-drained soils all over the country.

This is 30-50mm higher than normal, indicating that up to two inches of rain would be needed to bring soils back to normal levels.

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Teagasc is recommending that farmers keep applying fertiliser until there is no grass growth.

There may be little response to CAN, Pasture Sward and other compounds due to lack of moisture but equally, there will be little losses. It will just sit there waiting for rain.

The key is to ensure that the fertiliser is out before next forecasted rain. Whether that is one day before or 10 days before the rain is not going to make much difference but the fertiliser needs to be out.

Dew at night will make little difference to fertiliser on the ground, apart from some granule break-down. Without rain, there will be little nutrient uptake.

Irish Independent

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