‘It’s costing us €370/day in additional feed’

Farming alongside his father under a family partnership agreement, Adrian Claffey – a dairy farmer from Co. Westmeath – explained how much the drought is costing the farm.

“It’s costing us about €370/day in additional feed. It’s roughly going to cost about €16,000 overall, so that’s hitting us hard enough. We’re just hoping milk price will stay reasonable to carry us on through.”

Milking 180 cows on a 115ac milking platform, Adrian also touched on the grazing situation. The average farm cover stands at 350kg/ha, so alternative feeds are being used to fill the gap.

“To manage the grass shortage, we tried lengthening the rotation. We set a sacrifice paddock and started buffer feeding cows at nighttime with baled silage, beet pulp numbers and palm kernel ad-lib and also meal, which we were putting out in long, narrow strips through the diet feeder.

“They were getting no fresh grass at nighttime and we were just trying to save grass to keep them happy during the day. They were also getting ad-lib palm kernel during the day, with a small amount of grass.”

Touching on the winter feed situation, he said: “To stock back up for winter, to date, we’ve bought 120 bales of hay. We’ve 200t of beet sourced as well and we’re planning to buy some bales of silage locally off neighbouring farmers. Hopefully, they’ll have some to spare.”

Grass advice

When it comes to managing grass during the month of August, Teagasc offers the following advice:

  • The target rotation length for August is 30 days to build grass for the autumn. Supplementation will have to continue to build grass on farms (about 300kg/LU by August 31);
  • Keep silage ground closed after second cut and aim to harvest a third cut on this ground. Fertilise accordingly;
  • Continue to graze to 4cm;
  • It is clear from PastureBase Ireland farms that growth rate has increased over the last seven days. Farms must be walked weekly to monitor grass supply and to build grass for the autumn;
  • There is rain in the forecast for this week. This is an opportunity for farmers to spread fertiliser to build grass for the autumn.