Speaking at the 2018 Teagasc National Dairy Conference today (Tuesday 27), Teagasc’s Joe Patton echoed his concerns that a 10% shortage in feed now, is a 100% shortage next March.

Joe outlined that a key lesson from spring 2018 was that even a small deficit in fodder can turn into a complete lack of feed for a significant duration in spring.

A 10% deficit in winter feed is enough of a deficit that requires action, he explained.

There are various options available to farmers to fill the gap in winter feed. These include: restricting silage and offering supplementary concentrates; culling non-productive stock; and sourcing extra fodder, he noted.

Pictured at the Teagasc National Dairy Conference in Co. Cork are speakers: Joe Patton,Teagasc; Albert McQuaid, global chief technology officer, Kerry Group; Liam Herlihy, Teagasc chairman; Natalie Roadknight, University of Melbourne; Prof. Gerry Boyle, Teagasc director. Image source: O’Gorman Photography

Going forward, weather risk is a reality of farming and can cause a significant shock to the production system; such events can put pressure on finances and labour in particular, Joe added.

Concluding his presentation, the dairy specialist highlighted that the impact of such extreme weather on dairy farmers across the country can be minimised by saving surplus supplies of high-quality silage.

This silage can be used to supplement grazed grass during periods when grass supplies are limited – as was the case in spring and summer of 2018.

He recommended producing a crisis reserve of silage in the form of an extra 500-800kg of DM for each cow in the herd, in addition to the herds winter fodder demands.

This can be done during a year that experiences typical grass growing conditions and should be maintained on an annual basis from year-to-year.