Advice for beef farmers: Harvest challenge varies from drought to surplus grass

Some parts of the country, particularly in the east, are experiencing a drought, and grass has become very scarce.

Some unfortunately have had to house young stock to feed them silage, while many dairy herds are having to feed silage and extra concentrates to stretch available grass.

This will have a knock-on effect for feed stocks this winter, if rain does not arrive soon.

For those who have had rain lately, in conjunction with the bit of warmer weather, grass growth remains good, with soil temperatures remaining high.

Most of the farms located further west that I have walked in the last week have a significant amount of grass ahead of them.

It is important that we get the very best value out of this grass, in order to maintain acceptable animal performance.

If a large surplus exists on farms, it really should be taken out sooner rather than later, so that you can begin banking grass for the autumn, and obviously, taking advantage of the good growth.

Feed Budget

I have put together some feed budgets over recent weeks.

Forage stocks will certainly not be a problem on the vast majority of farms this coming winter.

Pits in most yards are full, and many still expect to make more silage, before the autumn is over.

Most have also managed to make much more bales than they would have expected to.

It is really important to sit down and establish exactly how much forage you will require for stock for the full winter. While doing this exercise, it is worth planning for at least a 150-day feeding season.

Performance from silage

With most have enough silage in stock, feed budget considerations should next turn to animal performance.

Whatever you will buy to complement your home-grown feed should achieve the required animal performance at the lowest cost possible.

Whether you intend on selling, feeding or breeding stock after the winter, underperforming stock are not what you want next spring.

Autumn grass quality

September is just around the corner, and we know grass will get softer and lower in dry matter from here on.

In fact, grass has had that soft autumn feel for the last three weeks.

As a result, any silage being harvested will, where possible, need a significant amount of wilting. This is particularly important where bales are being made.

Sugar levels in autumn grass drop dramatically, resulting in poorer fermentation when ensiled.

Feeding beet

As we get closer to housing, there are always discussions regarding feeding beet to stock. If you are buying it, do your figures to see if the price you are quoted represents good value.

There is no doubt that beet it is one of the best feeds for beef cattle, but you must do the sums, and get the correct advice. 

This advice must include balancing diets correctly for fibre, energy, protein and minerals, for optimum performance, before costing all the options.

Cereal options

The cereal harvest is advancing, and will be completed soon. Grain continues to be traded from farm to farm, and native cereals represent the very best value available to beef and dairy farmers this winter.

If you can store and feed it successfully, it is not too late to buy grain locally.

Cereal bushel is excellent, apart from some of the winter barley, and most crops has been combined at low moistures.

The price has remained similar to last year’s harvest, so it represents fantastic value for livestock producers.

It is worth remembering, however, that feed grain will cost you much more during the winter, and securing your requirements now will help you to make considerable feed cost savings.

Obviously, cash flow will dictate if this is a possibility for you.


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