‘There is a culture of excess silage waste in Ireland’

There is a culture of excess silage waste in Ireland, with somewhere in the region of 25% of feed made each year wasted through visible and invisible losses on some farms, an animal nutritionist has warned.

Last Thursday night (August 2), Gerry Giggins from Nutrition Link told a LacPatrick Dairies fodder workshop meeting that some silage samples coming back are throwing up “serious quality issues“.

Heavy rain towards the latter end of last year and into the early part of 2018 has led to quality concerns arising from silage samples taken from some heavier farms, he added.

While there has been some great silage made this year, quality issues have also been evident. These issues varied from silage being too wet or to dry, or the decision being taken to harvest stale grass that couldn’t be grazed in the spring, Giggins added.

Speaking at the meeting, Giggins said: “The results are showing that there is a lot of ash content or soil contamination in silage that has been made this year. This is because fields were badly poached last year and earlier this year.

The nutrition expert also believed that issues around silage quality are not restricted to this year, with many farmers not doing enough to produce quality silage every year.

Referencing the volume of calls he has dealt with recently from farmers struggling to contend with anticipated fodder shortages, Giggins stated: “My winter started about five weeks ago.”

Planning for alternatives

Giggins – who previously worked managing Larry Goodman’s feedlots and also worked for Bord na Mona – urged planners to plan now if there is a feed shortage on their farm.

He outlined a four-step process that all farmers should adhere to.

The steps involve: budgeting now; prioritising the stock that need quality silage most; putting a realistic value on silage or straw; and planning for all eventualities in the future.

Giggins also added that availability of alternative feeds – such as brewers’ or distillers’ grain – will be “extremely tight” until the new year.

On the other hand, wholecrop is available in most locations, he said.

Other speakers on the night included: Ciaran McCabe, partner at IFAC; Finola Colgan, Mental Health Ireland; as well as members of the LacPatrick Farm Advisory Team.