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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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8% of farms have ‘significant’ fodder deficits – Teagasc survey

Teagasc has, today (Monday, October 4th), published the findings of its July 2021 fodder survey.

The national picture shows drystock farms reporting a projected surplus of approximately 29% (total feedstocks minus total requirements for the sample farms).

Meanwhile, dairy farms are similarly well placed at approximately 18% overall surplus.

Over the last number of weeks, advisers completed almost 650 winter fodder budgets for drystock and dairy farmers nationwide.

They carried out this activity as part of an initiative to promote better feed security planning on livestock farms.

Advisors completed budgets using the fodder budget function on PastureBase Ireland and collated by region:

  • Midlands/North-east: Cavan, Dublin, Kildare, Laois Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Westmeath;
  • South-east: Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow;
  • South-west: Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick;
  • North-west: Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo.

Teagasc fodder survey 

Table 1 presents the data by region and enterprise. 

Here it is shown that dairy farms in the Midland North-East region have the smallest surplus, equivalent to 5-7 days feeding in winter.

This represents an improvement on 2020. Dairy farms in other regions show improved feed reserves. Drystock farms in all regions have reported strong feed surpluses.

Table 1. Winter feed balance by region and enterprise July 2020

Enterprise Region Winter Fodder balance1 % Approx. Days Short
Dairy Midlands North-East 106
Dairy North-West 110
Dairy South-East 116
Dairy South-West 122
Drystock Midlands North-East 128
Drystock North-West 131
Drystock South-East 134
Drystock South-West 127

1Based on planned winter feed demand minus current feedstocks

2 Simple (unweighted) average of fodder balance per farm in sample

Farms with significant feed deficits

Previous experience of fodder shortages has shown that farms with deficits of greater than 20% at the onset of winter face significant practical and financial difficulties feeding their stock.

Despite the overall positive position reported in this survey, 7% of dairy farms had a deficit greater than 20% of winter requirements. Similarly, 12% of drystock farms had a deficit greater than 20% of winter requirements.

Teagasc said there was “no clear pattern” of scale, location, or enterprise to characterise farms with greater than 20% feed deficits.

It pointed out that this indicates that individual farm management decisions may be the primary factor determining feed budget balances, instead of weather or land type issues.

Commenting on the results of the fodder survey, Joe Patton, Teagasc survey co-ordinator, said:

“The survey shows all regions are in a quite good position for feedstocks.”

“There were some regional issues with growth rates at certain times of the year, but overall farmers have managed winter feed stocks very well.”

Teagasc recommends carrying a rolling winter feed surplus of 25-30% to insulate against weather shocks and many farms are “near that level”.

Plan to extend the grazing season

Micheal O’Leary, Teagasc PastureBase said; “The fodder budgeting function in PastureBase Ireland is proving very useful for managing winter feedstocks.”

“Autumn grass growth and grazing conditions have been excellent for most regions.”

He advises farmers to plan now to extend the grazing season. while making sure to meet closing grass cover targets. “This will help to reduce overall winter feed demand,” he added.

Dermot McCarthy, head of advisory services in Teagasc said: “This year’s survey indicates that nationally our client farms are secure for winter feed.”

“There is always variation around the average. However, we would encourage more farmers to complete their own fodder budgets before winter starts.”

“Teagasc advisers are available to help. Finally, Teagasc would like to thank the farmers who participated in the survey,” he concluded.

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