‘No one miracle cure to address fodder shortages’

There is no one miracle cure to address a fodder shortage at farm level, Teagasc’s Brian Garry told AgriLand recently.

“You need to know how much fodder you are short by checking how much silage you’ve used, have left and how much you will need to use.”

Also Read: How much is left in your silage pit and how long will it last?

After identifying a shortage, he said: “Once you have enough silage to meet 50% of the cows’ requirement, you can start introducing concentrates or other feeds to make up any deficiency in energy or protein.

Ideally, for dry cows, you’d like to keep the silage proportion of the diet as high as possible. From a cost point of view, you don’t want to be putting in too much concentrates.

“You don’t want to provide too powerful of a diet and you have to be careful if your cows are in good condition.

“The dry cow requires 0.75-0.8UFL for every kilogram they consume. In terms of silage quality, that’s the equivalent of a 68-70% DMD (dry matter digestibility) silage.

“To put this in perspective, a 600kg dry cow –  in month eight of gestation – has a requirement of 7.1UFL/day for maintenance and pregnancy. Cows which are below the target body condition score of 3.00-3.25 will have a greater energy requirement.

“If cows in adequate condition were provided with this silage ad-lib, they should be fine. But if you’re short of silage, you may need to look at introducing concentrates or fodder beet to the diet.”

For farmers opting to go down this route, Garry urged them to shop around for value and avoid feeding more than 4kg of concentrate – whether that’s maize gluten, barley or soya hulls – in one feeding.

If you have to restrict silage, it’s important that every cow is given the opportunity to feed; some cows eating their full requirement of silage and others getting no silage is no good whatsoever.

“You have to make sure that every cow is able to eat at the same time,” he said.

When it comes to purchasing silage, he said, farmers should do so on quality, rather than on a per bale basis.

“Get silage tested prior to purchase so that a suitable price can be arranged by both parties,” he advised.

Garry also stressed that farmers should give careful consideration to the mineral status of the dry cow diets used on their farms – especially when beet is being used to fill a forage void.

“When feeding beet, higher levels of mineral supplementation may be required then what’s available in a standard dry cow mineral.”

Reducing demand and next spring

The Teagasc nutritionist also urged farmers to sell surplus, unproductive stock and to instead direct silage reserves that are available to priority animals.

If farmers have cull cows hanging around the place, they may be better selling them. If they’re finishing cattle, they might be able to put those animals on a higher plain of meal. You have to be flexible across the board.

He added: “When it comes to spring, grass should be everyone’s priority. If you are tight on silage, you have no excuse for not going with an early round of nitrogen.

“There’s no point in buying meal at €250/t if you can grow the feed out in the field a lot cheaper.”

To see if you have enough fodder, click here.