Fod­der sup­plies re­bound but Tea­gasc urges cau­tion on win­ter feed­ing regimes

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - DECLAN O’BRIEN

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.

Un­re­stricted

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.

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