Farmers are being warned that they must make 100% of their winter fodder requirements themselves this year, as the cost of purchasing alternatives will be expensive.

That’s according to Teagasc’s head of dairy knowledge transfer, Joe Patton.

Speaking on the latest Farmland programme (video below), produced by Agriland Media Group, Patton stated that with insecurity around grain supplies and the rising cost of inputs, farmers must make sure to produce sufficient amounts of fodder on farm.

Patton outlined that the typical advice for farmers in a year where there is a feed crisis, is to try and produce 80% of the fodder required, then purchase alternatives such as barley and gluten or concentrates and straw to fill the gap.

However, he explained that doing so may be quite challenging this year:

“The cost of filling a 20% gap this year and from an availability of the alternatives point of view, that cost will be prohibitive.

“What we’re really saying is that we have to make sure that people make 100% of their fodder requirements this year.”

According to Patton, surveys conducted by Teagasc in autumn 2021 showed that a large number of farmers experienced a 25% surplus in supplies. However, there was also a proportion that did not meet their requirements.

“10% of farmers in that survey, across beef and dairy, were significantly short and that 10% seem to be short every year. I’d worry about those farms.

“If you were short or had to buy last year, there’s definitely a need to do something. There’s still plenty of time to do something about it,” Patton said.

He added that in addition to this, initial survey work carried out by Teagasc this year has shown that farmers have largely used the same amount of nitrogen as last year within the dairy sector.

However, he added that this is not the case within the drystock sector, meaning there may be less surplus silage on the market for farmers who do not produce enough themselves.

“So you really do need to do your budget after your first cut, make sure that there’s enough second cut in the plan to get you to 100% of your requirements,” Patton said.

“It is not a year to be 15% or 20% short because the cost of filling that gap is going to be huge next winter I would say.”