While the national picture for fodder looked secure in the latest Teagasc Fodder Survey for July, it still revealed that 8% of farms have significant fodder deficits.

Planning and budgeting for both the quantity and quality of winter fodder available on farms is becoming an increasingly important activity, as part of managing the impact of changing weather patterns and mitigating the impacts of climate change on farms, according to the advisory body.

Teagasc advisers have completed almost 650 winter fodder budgets for dry-stock and dairy farmer clients nationwide.

This was carried out as part of an initiative to promote better feed security planning on livestock farms.

Fodder budgets

Budgets were completed using the fodder budget function on PastureBase Ireland and were collated by region:  

  • Midlands/North East: Cavan; Dublin; Kildare; Laois; Longford; Louth; Meath; Monaghan; Offaly; Westmeath;
  • South East: Carlow; Kilkenny; Tipperary; Waterford; Wexford; Wicklow;
  • South West: Clare; Cork; Kerry; Limerick;
  • North West: Donegal; Galway; Leitrim; Mayo; Roscommon; Sligo.

The national picture shows drystock farms reporting a projected surplus of approximately 29% (total feed stocks minus total requirements for the sample farms), while dairy farms are similarly well placed at approximately 18% overall surplus.

Feed budget data by region

The table below presents the data by region and enterprise. It shows that dairy farms in the midland north east region have the smallest surplus, equivalent to 5-7 days feeding in winter.

This represents an improvement on 2020. Dairy farms in other regions are showing improved feed reserves which is a positive development.

Drystock farms in all regions have reported strong feed surpluses. 

Winter feed balance by region and enterprise July 2020:

EnterpriseRegionWinter fodder balance %Approx. days short
DairyMidlands North East106
DairyNorth West110
DairySouth East116
DairySouth West122
DrystockMidlands North East128
DrystockNorth West131
DrystockSouth East134
DrystockSouth West127

The winter fodder balance percentage is based on planned winter feed demand minus current feed stocks.

Farms with significant feed deficits

Teagasc has said that previous experience of fodder shortages has shown that farms with deficits of greater than 20% at onset of winter, face significant practical and financial difficulties feeding their stock.

Despite the overall positive position reported in the survey, 7% of dairy farms had a deficit greater than 20% of winter requirements. Similarly, 12% of drystock farms had a deficit greater than 20% of winter requirements.

There was no clear pattern of scale, location or enterprise to characterise farms with greater than 20% feed deficits.

The advisory agency said that this indicates that individual farm management decisions, and not weather or land type issues, may be the primary factor determining feed budget balances.

Commenting on the results of the fodder survey, Joe Patton, Teagasc survey coordinator said: “The survey shows all regions are in a quite good position for feed stocks.

“There were some regional issues with growth rate at certain times of the year, but overall farmers have managed winter feed stocks very well.

“Teagasc recommends carrying a rolling winter feed surplus of 25-30% to insulate against weather shocks and many farms are near that level.”    

Dermot McCarthy, head of advisory services in Teagasc added: “This year’s survey indicates that nationally, our client farms are secure for winter feed.

“There is always variation around the average however. We would encourage more farmers to complete their own fodder budgets before winter starts.”