Some farmers fear they will run out of silage before they turn cattle out
Happy New Year to all. 2019 looks like being a critical year for beef production in Ireland.
With significant price pressure on our stock and Brexit looming large, how will it all pan out?
The short answer is that, unfortunately, nobody knows. How will markets work out this year?
Will enough livestock be exported to influence home markets?
Will the weather be as big an influence as it was in 2018, who knows?
Low silage stocks
Although a lot of silage was made into the autumn last year, I am beginning to get calls from farmers who fear that they may run out before they turn cattle out. Most beef farms will still require between 75 and 90 days of silage to reach the end of the winter.
Now is a good time to do a quick calculation on your remaining stocks. Many farmers are commenting that they have been going through their silage much faster than they would have expected. Animals seem to have huge appetites this winter.
As in most years, very few beef producers will get to do much grazing in the months of January or February.
For most beef producers, cattle are either in or out, there is no in by night and out by day, or out for a few dry days and back in again.
As a result, you must budget for a longer winterfeeding regime and, in my view, regardless of location;’ aim to have fodder right up to the start of April.
What is your plan?
There are still some who hope that they will have enough silage but who have not done the necessary calculations.
Can you afford to just live in hope?
Most will be wary of turning out cattle early in 2019, with the bad experience of 2012, 2013 and 2016 still fresh in their mind (and, of course, the spring of last year with the Beast from the East and the wet April).
Do the calculations. Revisiting your feed budget is a good way to start off the New Year on your farm. How much silage remains? Measure your silage pits. Length by width by height in feet, divide your total by 45, to give you tonnes for grass silage, and divide by 48 for maize silage.
This is a rough estimation; the dry matter of your silage, and the clamp height, will determine the bulk density of the pit.
For example, in a pit of 70 feet long, 35 feet wide, and seven feet high, you have 17,150 cubic feet. Divide that by 45 to five you 381 tonnes of grass silage.
You have now established that, depending on the dry matter content of your silage, you have approximately 380 tonne of silage remaining. Next, you will need to work out how much dry matter you have left. Do this by multiplying the known dry matter percentage as a decimal of the silage by the tonnage calculated above. So, for example, with 24% dry matter silage, and 381 tonnes in the pit, 381 by 24/100 gives you 91 tonnes of dry matter.
This calculation should be based on what your animals are currently eating.
This is easy to do if you are weighing the feed in a diet feeder.
If you are feeding grabs of silage, then count the amount of grabs being fed daily and, where possible, get an accurate weight for one grab. This can easily be done by putting a few grabs in a trailer and bringing it to a local weigh-bridge.
Typical silage dry matter intakes, before meal or straw are added to diets, are 9-10 kg for dry sucklers; 11-13 kg from silage for sucklers with calves; 2-5 kg of dry matter (depending on meal feeding) for finishers; 7-8 kg of dry matter for stores, and 5-6 kg dry matter for weanlings.
Intakes will vary depending on animal weight, but also depending on silage dry matter and silage quality. Stock will always eat more dry matter from a higher DMD silage.
If silage is running out
Don’t wait to act until you run out.
Bale or pit silage is unlikely to be available locally. Some straw has emerged recently, so this may represent the best option to fill a forage gap. Straw and meal for youngstock is always a great way of stretching silage. Discuss your options with an expert before introducing ingredients and feeding systems you are not familiar with.
Spring calving suckler herds are gearing up for calving, if they haven’t already started.
Try to have everything ready for action. Check that the water troughs in the calving boxes are working. Dust down the calving jack, and ensure it is working, and that the two ropes are with it. Make sure, if you have a calving gate, that it is fully functioning.
Make sure that cows due to calve have been receiving sufficient mineral supplementation. This will aid calving, calf health and subsequent fertility.
If your herd has a history of scour in calves, then you really should consider vaccinating cows for scour. This must be done more than three weeks before calving, and less than 12 weeks before calving, to provide optimum levels of immunity. Obviously, the calf must get sufficient colostrum in order for the vaccination programme to be effective. Independent dairy and beef nutrition consultant Brian Reidy, Premier Farm Nutrition, can be contacted at [email protected]
Farmers, together with Dairygold Co-op, have contributed almost €70,000 to the the Irish Cancer Society since becoming Pink Partners in 2015. At a recent cheque presentation were, from left, John O’ Gorman, Dairygold Board Chairman; Claire Bowman, Corporate Partnerships Manager, Irish Cancer Society; Gillian Foley, Retail Marketing Manager, Dairygold; and John O’ Carroll, Head of Retail, Dairygold.