Plan­ning on for­age key to sur­viv­ing the win­ter

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - NEWS | FARMING - BY GEMMA MACKEN­ZIE

Beef and sheep pro­duc­ers have been told to plan ahead for win­ter for­age and straw sup­plies to avoid any nasty sur­prises.

Har­bro’s tech­ni­cal lead, Nick Canning, said the cur­rent dry spell would not only af­fect farm­ers now but through­out the win­ter as well.

He urged pro­duc­ers to work out what feed they needed for the win­ter, as­sess what they have avail­able and ad­dress any short­falls.

“The big thing peo­ple need to do is take ac­count of their own stock and for­age re­quire­ments to get them through to the start of the next graz­ing sea­son,” said Mr Canning.

He said as­sum­ing a full silage pit would see a farm through the win­ter would not work and get­ting silage tested for Dry Mat­ter con­tent was vi­tal be­cause this would de­ter­mine its nu­tri­tional con­tent for live­stock.

Once pro­duc­ers have worked out their win­ter for­age re­quire­ment, they should con­sider al­ter­na­tives such as us­ing wood­chip or saw­dust for bed­ding and keep­ing straw for feed­ing, once it has been am­mo­nia-treated, added Mr Canning.

He said an­other op­tion is whole-crop­ping bar­ley, rather than sell­ing it off the field, and sup­ple­men­ta­tion where nec­es­sary. Pro­duc­ers who pre­vi­ously re­lied on draff would find it dif­fi­cult to ob­tain and the same would be true for pota­toes and veg­eta­bles, which are likely to be in short sup­ply.

“We re­ally can­not go into the sea­son hop­ing we have a late back end and an early spring,” added Mr Canning. “We might be all right but if we are not, there are very few op­tions.”

In the short-term, he ad­vised creep feed­ing calves and lambs and to con­sider wean­ing them early. This was echoed by Karen Ste­wart from SAC Con­sult­ing, who said breed­ing stock should be given pri­or­ity ac­cess to grass. She said: “Be­cause of the short­age of silage, there is a ten­dency to shut up fields for a sec­ond cut, but don’t pe­nalise grow­ing an­i­mals in or­der to do this. You should try to get them as heavy as pos­si­ble by au­tumn and don’t keep un­pro­duc­tive stock.

“Don’t graze grass too hard, to en­sure it gets a chance to grow back. Try some sim­ple ro­ta­tion graz­ing. For ex­am­ple, if you’ve got cows in one field and ewes in an­other, put them in to­gether and give the other field a week or two to re­cover be­fore you graze it and rest the other field.”

She said pro­duc­ers should look into grow­ing stub­ble turnips to al­low early win­ter graz­ing of cat­tle be­fore they are housed.

The plea to plan ahead comes the same week NFU Scot­land launched its #NFUSHowDoYouPlan cam­paign. It urges pro­duc­ers to plan ahead, be flex­i­ble and col­lab­o­rate.

In a blog on the union’s web­site, vice-pres­i­dent Martin Kennedy said: “This is go­ing to be a year where ev­ery­one in the whole in­dus­try can play a part in try­ing to avert some­thing that may have an ir­re­versible im­pact on Scot­land’s ru­ral econ­omy.”

“You should try to get them as heavy as pos­si­ble by au­tumn...”

Ex­perts are ad­vis­ing pro­duc­ers to look at grow­ing stub­ble turnips to facilitate early win­ter graz­ing of cat­tle.

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