Fodder supplies rebound but Teagasc urges caution on winter feeding regimes
TEAGASC has warned that adhering to strict feeding regimes for housed stock will be critical to safeguard the progress made this autumn in reversing the fodder crisis.
Winter fodder supplies have improved significantly over the last month, with a huge amount of late silage harvested right across the country.
Joe Patton of Teagasc maintained that serious fodder problems were now confined to Wexford, Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny, south Tipperary, east Cork and parts of east Limerick.
The fodder shortage in these areas was generally in the order of 20-25pc, with shortages of around 10pc reported in the rest of the country.
However, Mr Patton said farmers needed to be careful not to waste the progress made over the last six weeks.
“A 10pc fodder shortage at this time of the year could become a 40pc shortage by March if farmers are not careful, particularly in the first six weeks of winter feeding,” he stated.
He said farmers will have to restrict silage intakes if they are also feeding concentrates in order to reduce fodder usage.
“If silage intakes are not restricted, farmers will have the additional cost of the concentrates, they won’t save any silage, and they’ll end up with overfat cows calving down,” Mr Patton said.
Teagasc estimates that the equivalent of around 10-15 round bales of silage would be saved over the course of a normal winter if 3kg/day of concentrates are fed to a 100-cow dairy herd, and the cows are allowed unrestricted access to silage.
However, Mr Patton maintained that the saving increases to around 120 bales if access to silage is restricted.
When restricting silage, Mr Patton urged farmers to allocate enough feeding space for all stock after fodder is initially put out to cows, and when it is pushed up in the evening.
He said providing the additional feeding space could involve the use of ring feeders.
Mr Patton said farmers should avoid restricting access to cubicles or lying down areas as part of any silage management regime.
Data compiled by the Teagasc-led fodder task force in September found that 60pc of farmers in Wexford were short of winter feed, with deficit levels averaging 30pc.
In east Cork 58pc of farmers were short of feed, with deficit levels averaging 23pc. In Carlow there is a 27pc fodder deficit, with 54pc of farmers affected.
The incidence of fodder shortage in Waterford, Kilkenny and south Tipperary ranged from 52pc to 56pc, with most short 21-22pc of required feed stocks.
Meanwhile, compounders report that feed sales have eased back from the crazy levels of July and August, with the trade being helped by lower demand and an improved supply of raw materials.
However, sales of dairy rations are still up 40pc on normal, while demand for beef feed is 15pc up.