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Grass growth is slower than usual this spring due to the cold, wet weather and fodder stocks are low following the wet summer in 2012. Farmers are currently facing difficulties in trying to fill the gap until grass supplies increase.
Teagasc have been providing advice to all farmers since last September on the best ways of coping with lower than normal levels of fodder and poor quality silage and hay.
Teagasc nutritionist, Dr Siobhan Kavanagh said the most important action is to get nitrogen fertiliser out onto grassland as soon as the weather and ground conditions permit. The nitrogen will be there to boost grass growth once soil temperatures rise. In the meantime most farmers short of fodder will have to purchase additional feed or fodder.
Key messages from Teagasc as follows:
1. Apply fertiliser as soon as the weather permits
2. The first rotation should extend to the 10th April in the South and slightly later in the Northern half of the country
3. If you are completely out of forage, you will have to purchase some. Animals will not survive on concentrates alone
4. Pay no more than €25-30 / bale for silage. Pit silage, of the same quality, is only worth 10% more
5. Protect the productive capacity of your herd, 2-3 kg meals now will solve a lot of problems
6. For milking cows and sucklers with calves at foot, minimising body weight loss and getting these animals back in calf is critical
7. Milking cows and suckler cows with calves should not be fed high quantities of straw to replace silage
8. If you have animals for finishing, reduce the demand for fodder and switch to feeding ad lib meals with minimum roughage
9. If cash flow is tight, talk to the bank, local adviser, or merchant
10. Consider selling some surplus stock where it makes economical sense to do so.
11. There is help available to deal with the current fodder situation, talk to the local Teagasc adviser – whether you are a client or not.
Dr Kavanagh said each farmer’s situation will be different so it’s important to get specific advice.
“The preferred option in most cases is to buy concentrate feed to supplement scarce fodder until grass is available.”
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