‘Slightly reducing the amount of silage fed now could make all the difference next March’

Reducing the amount of silage fed to livestock by between 5% and 10% now could make all the difference to a farmer next March, according to the general manager of Agribusiness at Aurivo Stephen Blewitt.

Blewitt spoke to AgriLand after the first of Aurivo’s three free information evenings took place on Monday evening (November 13) for farmers who are facing fodder shortages this winter.

The event took place at 8:00pm in Dorrian’s Imperial Hotel, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal and it was attended by approximately 60 people.

“We had a pretty good turnout. There were representatives from Teagasc and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) present. Our Homeland and Nutrias team was also there.

The key objective was to get farmers to calculate their fodder needs at an early stage and to determine whether they had enough to get them through the winter.

He added that, as the information evenings were broken down into smaller workshops, farmers were more inclined to ask questions and cases could be dealt with individually.

Farmers were encouraged to go out and take measurements and make calculations now, rather than leaving it until next spring. A range of figures were explained to farmers at the information evening, including when to know if feeding concentrates to livestock is more cost-effective than buying in hay or silage.

If people stick their head in the sand now and hope for the best, they could be in bother next March.

“A farmer might look around now and say he has a full pit of silage or 400 bales in his yard. But if we get a bad spring, reducing the level of silage fed now by 5% or 10% could be the difference in having enough of fodder and running out in a few months,” Blewitt said.

The reaction to the meeting indicated that there will be a fodder shortfall in the west and north-west this winter, he added.

In addition to explaining to farmers how to deal with a potential fodder shortage – reducing stock numbers was a valid option explored on the night – Aurivo looked to encourage its customers to submit orders for hay and straw that they will require over the winter period prior to December 1.

Commenting on the matter, Blewitt said: “We hope to have all orders for hay and straw in from our customers across our eight-county operating region in by December 1.

Going by initial research, we should be able to source native hay. But the straw will, more than likely, have to be sourced abroad.

By getting orders in early, Aurivo hopes to provide its customers with certainty of supply as well as with a more competitive price than if the search began next spring – when everyone will be at panic stations, Blewitt added.

Upcoming information evenings

Also present at the information evening was a representative from Mental Health Ireland who discussed how the pressure of fodder shortages can impact on farmers’ well-being. Representatives from financial institutions were on hand to offer advice on managing additional expenses this winter, the organisers added.

Two similar meetings organised by Aurivo are scheduled to take place in the coming days. The first meeting is set to kick off at 8:00pm this evening (November 15) at the Sligo Park Hotel, Sligo.

Following this, a meeting will also take place on Thursday, November 23, in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, at 8:00pm.

The adverse weather conditions in recent weeks have resulted in many farmers in the west and north-west being unable to harvest second cuts of silage.

As well as this, in some cases, cattle have been housed up to six weeks earlier than normal. This has resulted in winter feed supplies being depleted much sooner than expected. Rising prices for straw due to a tough grain harvest has further compounded the problem.

Experts from Aurivo’s Homeland and Nutrias brands will offer practical advice and support on: predicting fodder needs and calculating potential shortages; steps to reduce demand on current supplies; managing silage ground that could not be harvested; and utilising strong grazing covers in challenging underfoot conditions at the upcoming meetings.