Teagasc survey identifies fodder crisis in Waterford

Sean Keane

Reporter:

Sean Keane

Email:

news@waterfordlive.ie

A Teagasc survey completed last week has identified that 52% of farms in Waterford and Kilkenny have a fodder deficit for the coming winter. 

Those farms with a deficit are short 22% of the fodder they require.

At a series of farm walks next week, Teagasc advisers will discuss autumn Grassland Management to extend the grazing season as far as possible in the autumn and to begin grazing as early as possible in the spring. Winter fodder plan options to get through the winter as cheaply as possible will also be addressed. All events commence at 11 am and all are welcome.

Dairy: The first is on Wednesday, September 26, on the farm of PJ Murphy, Ballyconra, Ballyraggett (R95FN23), for dairy farmers.
Dairy: The second is on the following day, Thursday, September 27, at Liam Kearns, Tobernabrone, Piltown (E32PW61), for dairy farmers.
Beef: The third is on Friday, September  28, on the farm of Thomas and Constance Hennessy, Kilaree, Threecastles, Co. Kilkenny (R95AC98) for beef farmers.

Budget
It is absolutely essential that every farmer completes a winter fodder budget and soon. Failure to do so is simply sleep walking into the winter.

For those farmers still short of feed:
1. Do a fodder budget now and establish the extent of your deficit.
2. Examine the options of buying forage, buying concentrate feeds, setting up for early turnout in spring and selling stock.
3. Don’t ignore the risk of an early winter or a late spring. Build a reserve into your feed budget: a surplus of two bales of silage per livestock unit at the end of the winter is a valuable asset.
4. If cash flow is an issue, act now. Draw up a plan in conjunction with your Teagasc adviser, consultant or accountant and don’t be afraid to submit an application for money to your financial institution.

For those farmers who have just enough feed:
1. Don’t ignore the risk of an early winter or a late spring: a surplus of two bales of silage per livestock unit at the end of the winter is a valuable asset.
2. Start your fodder management plan from day one of the housing period:
a) if you have planned on a short winter, stretch the silage. For example, if you’ve planned a four-month winter, budget to stretch the silage for a five-month winter; b) use meals and other forages to stretch silage; and
c) revise the fodder budget regularly throughout the winter. Be conservative in planning the length of the winter.

Cash flow
Due to the extraordinary weather conditions this year expenditure on all farms has dramatically increased. It is more important now than ever that all farmers complete a cash flow budget for the the farm as well as a winter fodder budget. 
Your Teagasc adviser will help you with both. Cash flow is a measure of the movement of money in and out of the business. If the bank account is always in credit, the cash flow is positive. This is the ideal situation. 
Cash flow management is central to business success. In good price years, it is important that cash flow is managed so as to build a cash reserve and to undertake necessary on-farm improvements. 
In poor price years, cash flow must be managed to ensure that all essential bills are paid (including living expenses) and that no long term damage is done to the business due to a cash shortage. Remember that budgeting is not an exact science but that in most cases a ‘best estimate’ is better than ‘no estimate’.

Autumn Grass

Spread phosphorus and nitrogen soon - Phosphorus (P) is essential for early spring growth. However, it needs to be available to the plant.

P levels in the soil rise slowly compared to potassium (K). That is why it is better to apply P now and have it ready for the plant to use early next year. 

However, if spreading fertiliser containing P, it needs to be applied before September 30.

Nitrogen (N) fertiliser must also be spread before the end of September. Soiled water from the collecting yard can be used as a source of N to be applied to grassland in October.
Potash K is deficient on many farms and especially on silage ground or grazing ground where bales were taken out during the year. Straight K (muriate of potash) has 50 units of K per 50kg bag. There is no restriction on spreading K at any time.
Lime can be spread at any time (ground conditions allowing) and should not be overlooked.

Dairying

Supplementation in late lactation. In all cases, the decision to supplement should be based on your feed budget. When grass supply is limited (behind target), the grass-based diet of the dairy cow must be supplemented to ensure that the cow’s nutritional requirements are met to extend the lactation at a low cost.
Aim to build grass covers to a peak in mid to late September. In order to achieve this you must now maintain a rotation length of 35 days. Divide the area available for grazing by 35 and that is the area per day to be allocated.
If cows are short of grass or grazing conditions are poor, supplement with 3-6 kg per day of concentrate to make up the deficit. Keep silage out of the diet until October. Consider it reducing demand for grass by reducing cow numbers.