Am I paying ‘over the odds’ for my alternative feed?

As we all know, winter fodder supplies are currently being fed on farms across the country. Because of this, farmers may have no other option but to purchase alternative feed to fill the gap.

Teagasc’s Dr. Siobhan Kavanagh outlined that farmers need to know their feed deficit in advance and bring all potential feed back to a common denominator (i.e its energy value), at a recent Teagasc fodder event.

“A lot of farmers are short on forage and this forage is of limited availability. So we’ve taken feeds at various different costs and brought them back to a cost per unit of energy.

“The single most important component of any feed is the energy content. There are other components such as proteins and minerals that all have to be accounted for as well. But, the basic requirement you have to get into your farm this year is energy,” she explained.

Normally, farmers are quoted on a cost per bale, a cost per acre or a cost per tonne. However, farmers must bring this back to a cost per unit of energy (UFL) to be able to compare it with other feed to see if it’s good value or not.

In addition, it will depend on the farmer’s individual situation. Siobhan noted that farmers who have a 20-30% deficit are better off to fill the gap with rations, as farmers will know what they are getting. In a lot of cases – when farmers are buying forage – they do not know what they are buying.

In the table below, all feeds were brought back to a dry matter basis and its energy content was valued on a cost per unit of energy.

Source: Teagasc

Touching on the rations, she said: “The first ration represents a farmer that is gong to keep their own grain on the farm and mix protein and minerals with it themselves. In this case, farmers will end up with grain costing in the region €230/t.

“To make a good feed from wholecrop, you need to have the grain yield in it. If the grain yield is not in it in the field, it’s not going to get any better in the pit,” she added.

Siobhan also highlighted that stretcher rations – that have a lower energy value – are available. However, these rations will have a higher cost per unit of energy.