Another spring feed scramble

It was only last week that I wrote about planning for next winter’s forage supplies.

Now, unfortunately, just like some of the springs of the past few years, many are heading for a fodder shortage.

Two weeks ago, everyone was putting out stock, or intending to do so, until the weather deteriorated.

There is abundant grass on most farms, and once conditions improve, it will provide plenty feeding.

But stock will be in for a while yet on most beef farms. As a result, forage stocks are beginning to dwindle.

Grass silage, maize silage, whole crop and beet are being traded in large volumes around the country.

Straw supplies have gone very low, with exceptionally high prices for bales.

What to buy?

Farmers need to consider carefully what they are purchasing as a fodder source, before cash changes hands.

Assess the requirements of your stock before you buy silage.

Some have suggested that silage of any quality is necessary for cattle indoors. This is not necessarily the case.

In many cases straw (if you can get it) and concentrates will perform better than bad silage and concentrates.

There seems to be plenty of forage for sale, but of varying quality. Any feed’s price should be valued based on its feed value and convenience of feeding.

The value of a dry bale of silage is significantly higher than that of a wet bale of equivalent DMD.

Take care also when purchasing feeds you are not used to handling on your farm. Most by-products, while excellent for feeding, require careful minding to prevent spoilage at feed out.

Underperforming stock are not an option at any time of year. Also, there is little point in having cattle out in mucky paddocks with no access to feed, in bad conditions.

They may not be eating silage but they are going backwards, condition wise.

Looking after ground

After the wet weather, animals are doing significant damage in fields. It is important to avoid damaging paddocks in the effort to graze them tightly.

Any grass not grazed in the first round will be there next month for the second grazing.

Excessive damage at this time of year will reduce a paddock’s overall annual yield.

Most will now also need to delay the end of the first rotation, until the middle of April in many cases, if they hope to remain outdoors fulltime. In order to achieve this, the livestock rotation will need to be slowed down, by either rehousing by night, or even full-time for a period.

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

Grazing the silage ground will have one of two consequences; it will either reduce the volume of silage produced or delay the cutting date, resulting in poorer quality feed for next winter. Neither scenario is ideal.

Future grass growth

For many, this weather is also delaying slurry and fertiliser spreading.

This will have a negative effect on growth. It is therefore essential that you take any window of opportunity to get fertiliser out, in anticipation of improved grazing/growing conditions.

Try not to spread slurry on heavy covers of grass, because it will depress intakes at the next grazing.


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