It is always wise at this time of year to complete a fodder budget because it will do one of two things, it will give you peace of mind that you are ok for fodder or it will alert you early that you are going to be short and that action is needed.
If you discover you are short of feed you should consider What is the scale of the deficit? If you have 50% or more of your forage requirement on hand then essentially it is not necessary to buy forage, unless it can be bought at good value.
Concentrates will probably be better value and certainly more nutritionally sound than buying dubious quality silage; What are your Options - (a) Buying Forage. Aside from any issues on quality of purchased forage if you have 50% of your forage requirement on hand buying extra forage appears to be poor value.
Good quality silage before losses is worth €38/t and average quality round bale silage worth €31/bale. A 4x4 Round bale of Straw is worth €14 for feeding. (b) Buy Meals For many of you although a draw on cashflow this option may offer the best value and be the most practical to implement.
Although meal prices will rise by €40-50/t this year they are still competitive. Maize meal valued at €267 in represents good value this year and many feeders have bought it in to replace some cereals and paid considerably less than its relative value.
In a situation where you are restricting silage and feeding concentrates it is critically important that you have a defined feeding plan in place to feed the restricted silage; you have adequate feed space available so that all animals can feed at the one time - for example, this is seven cows/standard bay (4.8m) or 9-10 weanlings. Offer fresh silage daily, keeping to a fixed feeding schedule if possible.
You may need to plan to put in extra feed space using a feed trailer, ring feeder or extra toughs etc; if Ration ingredients vary, ensure that total energy, protein and fibre requirements are met; monitor cow condition score throughout the winter.
Thinner animals should be grouped together and fed additional feed to build up condition; don’t forget to feed minerals; ensure a good supply of freshwater - Buy Wet or Alternative Feeds and be aware of the protein and Dry Matter content of some of these feeds so that they are supplemented to provide a balanced diet. You also need to make provision for how you will store and handle these feeds to reduce losses. Ask yourself the question. Is it practical for me to buy these alternatives?
Again some people will have access to forage crops, ensure you have a feed plan for their use. Will extra forage or minerals be needed? Is there an adequate runback area? What are the risks with these crops? (Bloat, Nitrate poisoning/Iodine deficiency).
Reduce Stock numbers Often people are reluctant to reduce stock numbers if market conditions are not favourable or there is a tax implication with reduced end of year stock numbers. But it will help cashflow.
There is such price variation in stock values currently that some thought needs to be given as to what to sell. For example there may be very little gained from selling poorer quality light dairy type weanlings. They are currently a poor trade and they won’t be large consumers of forage.
Large consumers of feed such as cows that have been scanned empty or heifers that didn’t go in calf should be targeted for extra feeding now and should be certainly gone pre-Christmas.
It is important to realise that there are options if you are short of feed. The earlier you take action as outlined, the more choices you will have.
As part of the Teagasc Fodder and Finance campaign sit down with your adviser and work out a plan of action for your farm.
Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), Roscommon Town (Tel: 090 6626166) and Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160). You can find us on Facebook @Teagascroscommonlongford.