Dairy feed sales on the rise in first quarter of 2020

According to the Situation and Outlook report released by Teagasc this week, there was a sizable reduction in the amount of animal feed (compound feed and grain) fed to ruminant animals in 2019.

This will come as no surprise as the use of bought-in feed increased on farms massively in 2018 when Ireland suffered a severe drought.

The average dairy feed use per head was 1,120kg/cow in 2019. This is a decrease of 18% from 2018. Last year, beef feed usage also decreased by 18% from 2018.

Commenting on 2020, the Teagasc report stated: “For 2020, similar levels of feed use to those observed in 2019 are anticipated. This implies that feed price changes will largely determine any change in the level of expenditure on feed in 2020.”

Data available from the Department of Agriculture on feed sales was limited for this report. Data from quarter one of 2020 shows that the aggregate volume of dairy feed sales in quarter one of 2020 was up 4% on the same time in 2019.

The report stated that this was “perhaps reflecting a continuing increase in dairy cow numbers and a slower start to the grazing season in 2020”.

In contrast, beef feed sales decreased by 14% in quarter one of 2020 compared to the same time last year. The report outlined that this decrease coincided with a further decline in cattle numbers and was very likely to be linked to tight margins and low prices.

Looking at the full year, dairy feed levels are expected to increase slightly in 2020. Beef feed levels are expected to reduce from 2019 while sheep feed use is expected to remain at the 2019 level.

Feed prices

Feed prices moved downwards in the second half of 2019 and low prices continued into 2020. As no major change to feed barley price is on the horizon, feed prices are expected to remain low in 2020, the report stated.

Data source: Central Statistics Office

A long-term view of feed prices is shown in the graph below.

Data source: Central Statistics Office