A SURVEY of 364 Teagasc clients, carried out during January, showed that 73% (almost three-quarters) of farmers have sufficient feed to meet their livestock’s requirements until the planned end of the winter housing period.
There were 12 % (one in eight) of farms with a winter feed deficit of up to 10%, with the remaining farmers (15% or one in six) reporting a deficit of greater than 10%. A 10% fodder deficit would equate to two weeks’ feeding over a five-month winter.
On average there was a fodder requirement of 51 t DM on farms with 69 t DM of fodder in stock on these farms. In all provinces of the country, there appears to be sufficient fodder to meet requirements until the planned turnout date.
Commenting on the results, Teagasc ruminant nutrition specialist Brian Garry said that ‘while on average farmers have reported having enough fodder on hands; one in four farmers reported a fodder deficit, with over half of these reporting a deficit of greater than 10%.
‘So the effects of last summer’s drought could still be felt this spring. This situation could be exacerbated if we get a late spring, resulting in a later turnout than planned on the farms completing this survey.’
Planned turn-out dates to grass varied, depending on location and enterprise. If weather conditions are not conducive to grazing and/or grass growth after the planned turn-out dates, availability issues will quickly arise on farms. Up to 75% of farmers do not plan on selling surplus silage so the quantity of surplus silage available for purchase will be limited.
Brian Garry reminded farmers of the importance of rechecking fodder supplies and to make arrangements to allow for sufficient quantities of fodder to be available should poor weather conditions occur at expected turnout.
Key management practices should include:
• Return stock to grazing as soon as conditions allow – on farm measurements indicate that there is more grass on farms this spring than in previous years
• Sell animals as they become fit for sale/slaughter
• Avoid panic buying- purchase feed in advance if possible
• Ensure finance is available to purchase additional feed if required
‘The exceptional over-winter grass growth will only be of benefit if it is utilised by livestock,’ added Mr Garry.