Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Weigh up your feeding options for winter deficit

Dr Siobhan Kavanagh

The recent national fodder survey found that we are facing an overall national fodder deficit of 12pc for the coming year and two-thirds of farmers have a deficit of 23pc on their farms.

To address this problem the first step to take is to complete a fodder budget for your farm to establish how short of fodder you will be for next winter. The second step is to decide whether to make up this gap with forage or concentrates.

If, after doing your fodder budget, you find that you will have a large proportion of the silage you need for the winter, ie 70-80pc, then meals or forage will fill the gap, depending on what's good value in the market.

If you have less than 50pc of your silage needs for next winter, you will need forage and concentrate to fill the gap. Scenario 1, below, outlines what different forages are worth compared to baled silage at €25/bale.

If you have between 50pc and 75pc of your silage requirement, then your decision to buy more forage or concentrates will depend on your capacity to restrict silage and feed meals and the relative cost of different feeds.

Cereal prices are back significantly and it is predicted that concentrate prices will also be back in the autumn. A reduction in cereal/concentrate price will have the impact of reducing the value of all forages, particularly where a forage or a concentrate can be used to fill the gap in feed.

Scenario 2, below, shows what different feeds are worth relative to dried and rolled barley at €200/t and soya at €430/t.

While farmers need to react and put a plan in place quickly to secure feed for the winter, it is important to avoid panic buying expensive feeds and forages.

Also Read

Teagasc clients and non-clients can talk to local Teagasc advisers for specific advice relevant to your farm. Before you commit to buying feed, check its value compared to other options.


Aside from the price, there are other factors to consider when weighing up your feed options. These include the yield and quality of forages, the handling and storage facilities you may need, the cost of balancing for protein and minerals, the labour input, housing and feeding space required for different feeds and the cash-flow situation on the farm.

* Scenario 1: Very short of silage

If you are very short of silage, forages need to be valued relative to other forages. If baled silage (65 DMD) is available at €25/bale, then pit silage at 72 DMD is worth €31/t and pit silage at 65 DMD is worth €28/t. High quality maize silage (25pc starch) would be worth €43/t harvested. Again, if you can source 65 DMD silage at €25/bale, then hay at 55 DMD is worth €27/bale and hay at 65 DMD is worth €32/bale, while straw for feeding is worth €12/bale.

* Scenario 2: Moderate silage deficit

If you have a moderate silage deficit of 20-30pc, you can decide to make up the gap using forage or concentrate. Table 1 shows the relative value of several feeds and forages, if barley is available at €200/t (dried and rolled) and soya is available at €430/t.

Use the Teagasc Relative Value of Feeds Programme to evaluate different feedstuffs in your area at

Irish Independent