Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Silage deficit means looking at other options

Martin Ryan

With a deficit in silage yields of up to 50pc already this year, assessing feed supply and planning ahead to buy in additional feed was outlined as an urgent priority by a leading Teagasc adviser.

Solohead has a target winter silage requirement of 7t/cow, but it looks set to be faced with a huge deficit, even after allowing for a carryover from last year of 1t/cow.

The first cut harvested in May yielded just 3.5t/cow, and more and more silage ground being sacrificed for grazing, the prospects for a successful second cut are diminishing with every passing week.

The situation was further exacerbated when the farm resorted to feeding silage at a rate of 4.3kg/cow/day together with 4kg of concentrates to supplement dry matter intake during June.

In what has gone down in the history books as one of the wettest months of June on record, access to pasture was restricted to 5-12 hours per day, with the herd in at night.

John Donworth's advice to farmers is to make an immediate assessment of feed requirement versus supply and consider all the options, including early cull of cows, and forward buying of fodder or concentrates.

"For the dairy herd in particular, if there are cows not in-calf or cows not pulling their weight it is time to have a look at them and take them out.

"Whatever you do, don't carry them on for the winter. Purchase additional winter feed early. Consider forage but also think of alternatives like soya hulls or citrus pulp.

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DEMAND

"You need to be buying now because the demand is going to go up. Your neighbour is going to be in the same situation as you and with the cost of soya bean and barley going up across the world, soya hulls will also tend to go up. There is some good value to be got in supplementary feed at the moment, but the situation is likely to change because of the demand," he said.

He also advised farmers to restrict access to paddocks to the minimum amount of time.

"This could be as little as four or five hours per day if cows can take in enough in that time," he said. He also warned that ground which becomes badly poached at this time of the season "may not recover for the rest of the year and could become a bit of a mess to handle." Mr Donworth added that the preference should be for square rather than rectangular paddocks on heavy soils, since this allows cows walk less.

He also noted that most wet farms do not have enough roadways with direct access to every paddock.

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