One in four farmers reported a fodder deficit during a recent Teagasc survey
A SURVEY of 364 Teagasc clients, carried out during January, showed that 27% of farmers don’t have sufficient feed to meet their livestock’s requirements until the planned end of the winter housing period.
Of this 27% - 12% of farms have a winter feed deficit of up to 10% with the remaining 15% reporting a deficit of greater than 10%. A 10% fodder deficit would equate to two weeks’ feeding over a five-month winter.
On average there was a fodder requirement of 51 t DM on farms with 69 t DM of fodder in stock on these farms. In all provinces of the country there appears to be sufficient fodder to meet requirements until the planned turnout date.
Commenting on the results, Teagasc ruminant nutrition specialist, Brian Garry said that while on average farmers have reported having enough fodder on hands, one in four farmers reported a fodder deficit, with over half of these reporting a deficit of greater than 10%.
“So the effects of last summer’s drought could still be felt this spring. This situation could be exacerbated if we get a late spring, resulting in a later turnout than planned on the farms completing this survey,” said Mr Garry.
Planned turnout dates to grass varied depending on location and enterprise. Some Limerick farmers on dry ground have had their cows out this week. Others have had them in and out over the winter. There is also the option of zero grazing due to the excellent grass growth for the time of year.
However, if weather conditions are not conducive to grazing and/or grass growth after the planned turnout dates, availability issues will quickly arise on farms. Up to 75% of farmers do not plan on selling surplus silage so the quantity of surplus silage available for purchase will be limited.
Mr Garry reminded farmers of the importance of rechecking fodder supplies and to make arrangements to allow for sufficient quantities of fodder to be available should poor weather conditions occur at expected turnout.
Key management practices should include returning stock to grazing as soon as conditions allow – on-farm measurements indicate that there is more grass on farms this spring than in previous years; Sell animals as they become fit for sale/slaughter; Avoid panic buying feed in advance if possible; Ensure finance is available to purchase additional feed if required
In summary, Mr Garry concluded that overall there has been an improvement in the national fodder situation.
“However, caution should still be taken on farm to avoid silage losses and ensure fodder is available if weather conditions deteriorate later in the spring. The exceptional over-winter grass growth will only be of benefit if it is utilised by livestock.
“Most importantly farmers should take care to ensure health and safety of themselves, family members and employees during this busy period on farm,” said the Teagasc ruminant nutrition specialist.