‘Where silage is short, it will have to be rationed’

The last couple of weeks – and a late cut of silage in September – has resulted in many dairy farmers closing the gap between feed demand and supply.

However, according to Teagasc, others are still facing into a winter with significant fodder shortages. In both cases, a priority now is to measure silage stocks in the yard and to complete a fodder budget.

Teagasc says that silage stocks should be tested for both dry matter (DM) and quality. For a given volume, drier silages will weigh less; however, they’ll contain more dry matter.

Table source: Teagasc

Where silage is short, Teagasc says, it will have to be restricted/rationed. With this, adequate feed space is essential. As a guide, seven mature cows (600-700mm/cow) or 10 yearling heifers (400-500mm/weanling) will feed at a standard bay (4.8m).

When rationing is required, farmers are advised to begin so at housing; remember the feed passage will be bare for some number of hours each day.

Unless you restrict silage, cows will not reduce intake, will eat meals also and gain excessive condition, Teagasc says.

Steps to increase feed space

Teagasc also outlined a number of options to increase feed space, including:

  • Sell empty / non-core cows early;
  • Contract wintering of young stock;
  • Feed dry cow meal in the parlour;
  • Add external feeding space to sheds;
  • Place feed trailer / ring feed in collecting yard;
  • Restrict silage for a section of the herd only.

In all cases, Teagasc advises farmers to make sure that their feeding arrangements are safe and compliant.