Tak­ing stock of the fod­der sit­u­a­tion Tom Coll

On the im­me­di­ate steps farm­ers can take to pre­vent the fod­der short­age from turn­ing into cri­sis

Irish Independent - Farming - - FEATURE -

FARM­ERS in the west and north-west are fac­ing a po­ten­tial twom­onth fod­der deficit due to the sum­mer rain­fall that forced many to house stock much ear­lier than fore­cast.

There have been many meet­ings held by farm bodies on the po­ten­tial deficit, the re­al­ity is that farm­ers need to sit down and think about how they will get through the sit­u­a­tion look­ing at their own par­tic­u­lar sup­plies. It is about tak­ing stock and some im­me­di­ate ac­tion.

If you have at least 40-50pc of your re­quired silage stocks al­ready in stock, there are plenty of op­tions you can take to al­le­vi­ate the prob­lem. The first crit­i­cal step is to cal­cu­late how much fod­der you have in stock and com­pare it to the de­mand your an­i­mals will have for the re­main­der of the win­ter hous­ing pe­riod.

This means going out to mea­sure the silage pit or count bales and then count­ing your stock num­bers for the re­main­der of the win­ter.

The lo­cal sur­vey car­ried out across farm­ers in Done­gal/ Sligo/Leitrim re­gion iden­ti­fied two cat­e­gories of farmer with fod­der deficits. Th­ese in­clude the farmer who has be­tween 50 and 100 pc of his/her win­ter fod­der re­quire­ments and the farmer who has less than 50pc of his/her win­ter fod­der re­quire­ment. If the de­ci­sion is made to re­tain all stock over the win­ter pe­riod the lat­ter will have to pur­chase hay, silage or straw to bring his fod­der avail­abil­ity to 50pc of to­tal re­quire­ments.

Some farm­ers will re­duce stock lev­els in or­der to cut de­mand. Scan­ning cows and culling those not in calf or the late calvers will re­duce win­ter feed re­quire­ments. For many suck­ler farm­ers sell­ing wean­lings or store cat­tle will also have the added bonus of gen­er­at­ing a small amount of ad­di­tional cash for the farm with­out im­pact­ing on fu­ture pro­duc­tion.


Buy­ing in ad­di­tional silage is one op­tion but there is no point in buy­ing in bales at too high a price.

If you can buy a 14pc ra­tion for €200-230/t, then a 4x4 bale of silage is only worth €20–25/ bale, de­pend­ing on qual­ity. Re­mem­ber that while bales pro­vide bulk, most bales have 70-75pc wa­ter in them, while ra­tion has 15-18pc wa­ter.

The re­al­ity is that there is very lit­tle silage on the mar­ket at this price so the al­ter­na­tive is to sim­ply feed re­stricted quan­ti­ties of the silage you have and make up the short­fall with meals.

If silage is too ex­pen­sive, limit the silage be­ing of­fered to stock and top up with con­cen­trates. Start this to­day and don’t let the silage run out and then look for so­lu­tions.

Dairy cows and suck­lers need a min­i­mum of 18-20kg fresh weight of silage as roughage such as silage, while wean­lings need a min­i­mum 8-10kg fresh weight of silage, stores and in­calf heifers need a min­i­mum of 12-15kg fresh weight of silage.

As a rule of thumb, where you were of­fer­ing two bales to pens of stock per day, this is now re­stricted to one. Feed 2-4kg of meals to wean­lings, in-calf heifers, stores, dry cows and au­tumn calved suck­lers, de­pend­ing on tar­get gain and body con­di­tion.

Th­ese feed­ing rates ap­ply where you have only 50pc of your tar­get for­age re­quire­ments. If you have 70pc plus of your for­age re­quire­ments, the feed­ing rates for ra­tion can be re­duced. If feed­ing min­i­mum silage, a 14pc crude pro­tein ra­tion will suf­fice for most classes of stock.

How­ever if you are feed­ing min­i­mum straw, a higher feed­ing rate of meals will be nec­es­sary and an 18-20pc crude pro­tein ra­tion will be nec­es­sary to bal­ance for pro­tein. It is es­sen­tial to feed min­er­als.


Straight bar­ley is ad­e­quate for feed­ing with min­i­mum silage to dry cows but not wean­lings or in-calf heifers, un­less silage crude pro­tein is 15pc or greater.

Oth­er­wise, wean­lings and heifers would need a 14pc crude pro­tein mix. Straight bar­ley is NOT ad­e­quate for feed­ing with min­i­mum straw for any class of stock. Feed an 18-20pc crude pro­tein ra­tion. The use of sim­ple three-way mixes com­bined with min­i­mum silage en­abled farm­ers to see out fod­der short­ages in pre­vi­ous years.

Farm­ers stock­ing up on straw and fod­der at the Drumshanbo Horse Fair, Co Leitrim last week­end.

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