With a change to weather conditions and temperatures dropping, farmers will soon need to plan ahead for Winter housing. As the focus of Summer was to make silage, farmers must now look between recent grass growth and feed demand. For farmers who have not already assessed their silage/feed stocks, now is the time to do so and check on their Winter fodder supply
This is a simple task that will take the guesswork and unnecessary stress out of the coming period. For farmers to work this out they must know the volume of the pit in the yard (Length(m) X Width(m) X Settled Height), number of bales in the yard and separately list any pit silage or bales that has yet to be made. Knowing the weight and dry matter of feed would also be beneficial.
Farmers should also make a list of what animals they have, their ages and the amount of time they expect to be housed. It is important for farmers to include some ‘buffer time’ of approximately 6 weeks as the Irish climate can be unpredictable, and animals may need to be housed for longer.
Teagasc provides a comprehensive list of expected feed consumption for animals of different weights and ages. Farmers can use the information along with the below formula to work out what fodder would be needed.
Pit silage required (t) per animal per month X number of stock X number of months = feed required (t).
Farmers can compare the above result against what they have in their yard. Alternatively, Teagasc has a user-friendly fodder calculator available online. Farmers simply fill in information and it will calculate the results.
However, it is important to remember that figures may vary based on the quality of feed, size, weight, and condition of animals. Farmers must be aware that dry matter and weight can vary significantly between bales and pit silage and account for this in their calculations.
Farmers who are short on feed have a number of options. Firstly, farmers should work out the extent of the deficit and establish a fodder budget. This will be unique to each farm. From here farmers can examine their options of buying additional silage, bales or concentrate feeds and what cost each would be. Once again, don’t ignore the risk of an early Winter or late Spring and calculate this into the new budget.
Farmers can also consider selling some stock. Reducing stock numbers in advance of housing can not only help financially but also create more shed space, reduce on slurry and help overall fodder supply.
For those planning on an early turnout in Spring, Autumn grassland management can impact this. Farmers should consider reducing fields and paddocks in rotation from early October to mid-November.