10% of Irish farms facing fodder deficits – Teagasc

Some 10% of Irish farms are facing fodder deficits for winter, according to data published today, Friday, August 7, by Teagasc.

The last number of weeks saw Teagasc advisors complete around 700 winter fodder budgets for drystock and dairy farmers around the country, as part of an initiative to “promote better feed security planning” on farms.

Despite 10% of farms facing deficits, the overall national picture is said to be “secure” at the moment, with drystock farms reporting an overall fodder surplus of 17% on average, while the same figure for dairy farms is 12%.

Breakdown

The survey results are broken down according to regions and enterprise (drystock or dairy). They show that dairy farms in the midlands/north-east region have a small deficit of 3.8% overall – equivalent to six days’ feeding in winter.

The regions used in the survey are:

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

According to Teagasc, this is due to short-term drought conditions earlier in the summer. Despite this, drystock farms in the same region remained in surplus.

Surpluses were reported in all other regions across both enterprises.

This is explained in the table below. The winter fodder balance is based on planned winter feed demand minus current feed stocks, including second and third silage cuts. Figures above 100% indicate a surplus, while figures below 100% indicate a deficit.

Data source: Teagasc

Deficits

Notwithstanding the relatively good position of most farms around the country, the research shows that around 9% of dairy farms and 12% of drystock farms have deficits in excess of 20% of winter requirements. At this rate of a deficit, Teagasc warned, farms will face “significant practical and financial difficulties feeding their stock”.

The average deficit among dairy farms was 85/t dry matter (DM), while for drystock farms, this figure was 33t DM.

Due to the fact that there is no clear pattern of deficit (due to location, for example), Teagasc speculates that individual farm management decisions, and not weather or land type issues, may be the primary factor determining feed budget balances.

Joe Patton, Teagasc ruminant nutrition specialist, said: “The survey shows that most farms are in relatively good position at the moment. The early summer drought impacted east Leinster dairy farms to some degree, but it is very manageable.

“Teagasc recommends carrying a rolling winter feed surplus of 25% to 30% to insulate against weather shocks and many farms are near that level. We still have a cohort struggling to balance the books for winter feed in a good year. It is very important that these farms take steps to improve their long-term position,” Patton added.