Establish size of any feed deficit

Teagasc dairy specialist George Ramsbottom says the first step for livestock farmers is to establish the size of any winter feed deficit.

“If you have at least half of the fodder you need, then you should only buy more fodder if it represents good value for money. At current feed prices, that’s up to €28 per round bale of average quality grass silage, delivered, or half that for good quality barley straw. If it’s costing more than that, then buying concentrates makes more sense. Where only half the normal quantity of good quality silage is available, then feed 3kg of meal to dry dairy cows, and 2kg to weanlings, to make up the difference. Reducing demand by finishing cattle or cull cows before housing them is another option worth considering.”

Poor quality fodder is likely to be the second big issue facing farmers this winter, according to Teagasc animal nutritionist Siobhán Kavanagh. “Silage harvested in July following a grazing in early April will have a digestibility of less than 60%. Growing weanlings need 3kg of meal along with this sort of material, while dairy cows need 2kg, where condition was good at drying off.”

Livestock farmers are advised to establish if they’re going to have enough fodder for the coming winter as soon as possible. Teagasc advisers are ready to help with planning that suits each situation.


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