As we get closer to second cut silage preparation, it is time to look ahead and put a fodder budget in place, as many farmers are using their first cut silage already as a result of the poor growth rates.

Completing or reassessing your winter fodder budget should be considered, as the current poor growth rates are having a toll on winter feed supplies.

A fodder budget must be completed, as where there is an identification of a fodder shortfall, it will give you time to react and rectify the situation.

Due to the longer than usual housing period, many farmers have realised the importance of completing a fodder budget the hard way, with a large number of farmers running short on silage reserves last winter.

Fodder budget

As a lot of farmers are currently feeding out surplus bales and silage to their cows to fill the gap in their intake deficits, while some are grazing their second cut silage to see them out.

Additionally, there has been a reduction in the amount of fodder conserved, as there has been few opportunities to take out surplus paddocks.

Growth rates for second cut have been very slow which means their could be a fodder deficit for next winter.

However, for the majority of farmers, there are still a number of weeks until second cut silage is harvested, meaning there is still time for grass to recover.

Last winter may have been very costly for many, as it resulted in many purchasing extra silage, supplementing with extra meal, or off-loading stock early.

The reality is that many farmers are now looking at implementing a seven-month housing period, based on last winter.

The amount of silage needed will be influenced by the type and the age of the animal.

The table below gives you an indication on how to calculate and the value given to different stock, as follows:

A-Silage requirement-monthB-No. of months (incl. fodder reserve)C-No. of stockTotal tonnes of silage needed (AxBxC)No. of bales required
Dairy cow1.6t71001,120t1,400
In-calf heifer1.3t720182t228
Year-old heifer0.7t72098t123
Total3.6t7140 1,400t1751

If you add 20% onto that fodder budget to account for buffer feeding, which is becoming a regular occurrence, you will need an extra 280t of silage or 350 bales.

This means that your total grass silage requirement accounting for buffer feeding will add up to 1,680t or 2100 bales in the system above.

The 20% for your buffer feeding may seem like a stretch, but you are better off accounting for a higher percentage rather than the regular 10-15%.

If you are worried about winter supply, there are a number of ways to reduce the demand for silage before you go too tight next winter.

Firstly, to reduce your demand now, you should scan and cull any cows that are not in calf and if you keep any surplus cattle, you should consider selling these cattle earlier than planned.

In terms of fodder for next winter, if you feel you may run tight, you may consider sowing a a forage crop or even a catch crop.

Now might be a good time to make contact with other farmers to see whether you can purchase extra fodder off them.