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Farming tip of the week: Create a fodder budget

With recent weather impacting grass and silage crops across the country, it is important the sufficient feed be available for the winter months when animals are indoors.

To prevent a fodder crisis similar to previous years, it is important to plan early and account for the amount of feed you will need on your farm.

A fodder budget is a perfect way to do this.

To calculate winter feed requirements, three factors have to be taken into account: livestock numbers, duration of housing period and the daily intake of each animal.

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If you wish to reduce the amount of winter feed required, one of these numbers must be decreased.

Cow numbers

With the breeding season in the latter stages for many farmers, the cows that will be culled from the herd will be easy I identify. There is the option of ceasing the breeding season early to prevent any late calves and reduce the number of mouths to feed by culling.

Cows with high Somatic Cell Count or health issues such as lameness should also be removed from the herd.

Where a fodder deficit is severe, these animals should be culled at the soonest date possible to protect feed supplies.

Length of housing

The length of the housing period is dependant on weather conditions in both late autumn and early spring.

Dry, free-draining farms are the most affected by the recent moisture deficits, but they should be able to extend their grazing season due to their favourable soil conditions in wet weather.

Building autumn covers is probably not on the mind of many farmers currently, with many still waiting on their first cut of silage, but this will have to be the focus of attention in the coming months in order to extend the grazing season as much as possible.

For stocking rate of 2.5LU/Ha, the average farm cover on the 1st of October should be at least 1,000kg DM/ha, according to Teagasc figures.

In the coming weeks, the focus should turn to achieving this target in order to prevent increased costs from feed supplementation.

Fodder alternatives

Should you fall short of your fodder requirements for the upcoming winter, alternatives and forage supplementation will have to be acquired.

Growing a fodder crop such as rape, kale, redstart or Italian ryegrass could be an option. These crops will need to be sown in late July/early August to be ready for the winter period.

If you are sowing these into grazing ground, you must take into account that this field will not be ready for grazing again until mid-summer.

Fodder budget calculator

To calculate how much fodder you will need for the upcoming winter period, you can use the Teagasc Fodder Budgeting Worksheet.

To access the worksheet, click here.

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