Advice for beef farmers: Just like the hungry springs of 2012 and 2013

I spoke to a man earlier this week who described traffic jams in the south of the country, due to silage being transported between farms.

Just like the 2012 and 2013 springs, it looks like many are heading for a fodder shortage.

Two weeks ago, everyone was putting out stock, or planning to do so.

Unfortunately, the weather has taken a significant turn for the bad.

Grass is not growing at expected levels, and the prospects of growth in the next week or so are very poor.

Cold days and nights, and rain, are keeping soil temperatures below normal. As a result, many are returning stock to sheds, and are looking at shrinking feed reserves.

Early turnout and subsequent poor growth

Those who turned out stock early have already run out of grass, or have only a few days left. After the recent spell of wet weather, animals are also doing a lot of damage in fields.

It is important to avoid damaging paddocks, while trying to graze them tightly. Any damage now will reduce the paddock’s overall yield for the whole year.

Most will now need to delay the start of the second rotation to much later this month. In order to achieve this, stock will need to slow down their rotation, either being rehoused by night or even full-time for a period.

Some who had not intended grazing silage ground have had to do so, and this will have a huge knock-on effect.

Grazing the silage ground late in the spring will have either of two consequences; it will reduce the volume of silage produced, or will delay cutting date, resulting in poorer quality feed for next winter.

Neither scenario is ideal.

Grass growth

For many, bad weather is also delaying slurry and fertiliser spreading. This will have a huge knock-on effect on future growth. It is essential that you take any window of opportunity to get fertiliser out, in anticipation of improved growing conditions.

Re-housing stock and moving paddocks faster

For those that have not re-housed yet, make sure to do the grass availability sums, and assess land conditions.

Are your cows getting enough energy from grass, as we approach the critical breeding season for spring calvers?

Are the cows producing enough milk of the desired quality to support their calf?

Are paddocks getting cut up badly?

How will they perform in the next and subsequent rotations?

Don’t wait to move cattle until the damage has been done.

How to feed and manage re-housed stock

Every farm is different, there is no recommendation which will suit all farms.

Get advice based on stock requirements, factoring in feed quality and the quantity.

* Avoid re-housing wet stock, where possible.

* Cows about to start the breeding season need more than just grass silage, unless it is better than 70 DMD. Don’t forget minerals, and a concentrated energy source. n Calves should also have access to some concentrates, where possible.

* Bulling heifers should also get some concentrates, including minerals.

* Weanlings will benefit from concentrate supplementation, as their intakes are still increasing rapidly, as they grow.

* Stores coming in off grass will do on silage alone, in most cases.

* Especially in the first 24 hours after housing, keep a constant supply of feed in front of stock. This will avoid bullying and reduce stress.

Returning to grass

Hopefully, sooner rather than later, re-housed stock will head to grass again.

Even though stock are back in your shed, don’t forget to keep an eye on your grass.

Once growth, land conditions and weather conditions have improved, a good rule of thumb is to return stock to grass when you have 10 days grazing ahead of you again.


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