Harvest all winter feed opportunities

It may only be the end of July, but we all need to be preparing for next winter.

Much of the second cut silage will be made in the coming weeks, if weather allows.

Once you have your forage in the yard, you should then look at constructing a winter feed budget.

This will allow you to look at your costings, and assess any feed shortfalls.

As well as getting sufficient feed for the winter, time must also be spent getting the yard and sheds ready for housing.

Plenty of silage

Travelling around the country, I see that most farmers have made a lot of bales from surplus paddocks in the last month or so. More third cut and baled silage will yet be made, to add to the silage that is now in the yard.

The cereal harvest has kicked off, and winter barley is being harvested this week in many locations, including South Tipperary, East Cork and Louth.

Grain quality seems to be quite good. The price for grain off the combine continues to offer excellent value for livestock farmers, and it should be taken advantage of, if at all possible.

Native barley, wheat and oats are exceptionally high in starch and energy, and when preserved and balanced properly, they will help to improve animal performance and reduce costs greatly.

If you have the facility to store grain for the winter, now is the time to do it.

Wholecrop cereals are being harvested. It is very important that this is ensiled and preserved well, to prevent moulding and waste at feed-out.

An additive to aid fermentation is critical

Maize silage crops look excellent all over the country.

What we need now is a good spell of weather through August to ensure that the crop is pollinated successfully.

Beet crops also look promising this year, and will provide excellent energy for finishing stock this winter.

Thrive on grass

Grass continues to grow well around the country, and to provide excellent feed value. All stock are performing really well on properly managed grass.

Keep grass growing well with sufficient fertiliser application; it will soon be time to begin banking grass for the end of the year.

Animals intended for finishing off grass over the coming weeks should be supplemented with a low-protein concentrate, to get the required weight gain and fat cover at slaughter.

You should also continue to supplement late-born, bucket reared calves at this stage, in order to maintain growth rates before housing.

Straw

Just like last year, a lot of hay was made earlier this summer. The preference is always for straw as a roughage source for cattle, as it promotes better rumen function.

Young calves certainly perform significantly better when fed straw, as it doesn’t give them “pot bellies”, like those fed hay.

Wheaten, barley, oaten and rape straws are all excellent sources of fibre, and will all be fed this winter on many farms to supplement grass silage.

Every year, an issue which always pops up is the variation in the weight of bales.

Before you buy bales, get an approximate weight.

Compare the options available to you, and make your purchasing decision based on the lowest cost per tonne of straw, according to bale weight.

If you have capacity to store straw, the best value comes straight from the field.


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