Not only is there a fodder crisis in the country, there is also a risk of a concentrate supply crisis.
Due to unprecedented summer demand for concentrates, the carry-over stocks in the country are almost sold out, and the next shipments are not due until September.
This leaves a gap which is worrying people in the feed trade.
While the weather has obviously been the cause of the fodder crisis, the concentrate crisis is caused by political bungling in the EU.
Bureaucrats in Brussels will not sign the necessary documentation that will allow an ample supply of corn gluten, distillers and some other products into the EU before October. We could have been buying these products in May or June, which would ease the supply — and the price of concentrates.
The feed trade is again lobbying our Government and Agriculture Minister to encourage the EU to bring about emergency measures to alleviate our concentrate crisis.
This time last year most dairy farmers were in the happy position of having a good supply of winter feed, and cash flow was fairly good.
Unfortunately, the opposite is the situation this year. To make matters worse, the price of concentrates is likely to be extremely high. This makes the option of using minimum roughage, supplemented by concentrates, much less attractive than in other years when winter feed was scarce.
All kinds of winter feed, especially good quality material, will be expensive, due to scarcity of supply and strong demand.
The amount of round bales available from surplus grazing areas this year is minimal on most farms.
Some farmers have made arrangements to buy maize silage (which is a poor crop in many areas this year), grass or grass silage, fodder beet and other feeds, or have sown some rape or kale. Others who are short of winter feed supply will have to sell surplus stock.
Some farmers who have been hit extremely hard by the weather might consider selling some dairy stock, because many of them have too many cows for their quotas — which will restrict their milk production until the spring of 2016. This would be a better option than under-feeding, especially if finance is scarce.
Other options are to purchase whole crop wheat or barley but, like all feed, this will be expensive this year (with grain growers talking about €238 to €240/t for dried barley, for example).
Purchasing grain from the harvester at about 20% moisture is an option for some. This has to be treated with a preservative and is ideal for rolling at this moisture content. Crimped grain has become popular and should have a moisture content of 30 to 35%. A preservative must be used, and the grain is ensiled in a polythene-lined clamp and well consolidated, to prevent entry of air.
As whole crop and grain purchasing may be a new experience for many farmers, very good care should be taken to avoid significant waste.
Best advice should be got on preservatives, storage techniques, vermin control and usage. Otherwise you could end up with a lot of mouldy bad feed costing you a lot of money.
There are different systems of preserving grain for winter and spring feeding, and these systems should be followed precisely. They all come at a cost and have advantages and disadvantages. Details are available from Teagasc.
Many farmers will be purchasing some concentrate feed for winter, and the following is a guideline to the relative feed values. Concentrates have to be balanced properly with protein and minerals, and this has to be taken into account when comparing feeds for different types of animals.
Relative value of some feeds based on the price of dried rolled barley at €270/tonne, and soya bean at €495/t are €274/t for rolled wheat, €232/t rolled oats, €298/t maize, €265/t beet pulp, €175/t molasses, €255/t citrus pulp, €262/t soya hulls, €285/t corn gluten, €320/t maize distillers, €320/t rapeseed meal.
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