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The cost of producing home-grown feeds on Irish farms

Unprecedented increases in prices of fertilizer, fuel and feed on global and Irish markets in 2022 has large consequences for the cost of beef production on Irish farms. The purpose of this article is to outline the cost of producing home-grown feeds on Irish farms in 2022 and see how this compares with the cost of purchased concentrate feeds, as well as to quantify the increase in feed costs between 2021 and 2022.


  • Analysis of five commonly grown feeds on Irish beef farms has shown that the rise in input prices has led to an increase in feed costs between 22% and 33% in 2022 when compared to 2021.
  • Growing and efficiently utilising high-quality home-produced feed, rather than purchasing concentrates, which are also increasing in cost, remains the most cost-effective option for feeding livestock.
  • Grazed grass is the lowest cost high-quality feed source available, with clover inclusion in swards providing further opportunities to reduce costs.
  • With rising supplementary feed costs, it is vital that farms produce sufficient winter feed of appropriate quality.
  • Targeting high grass utilisation on grassland farms needs to be a key objective

Feed cost analysis

The “Teagasc Grange Feed Model” was used to determine the cost of producing five of the most commonly grown feed crops in Ireland in March 2022 versus September 2021. Assumed dry matter (DM) yields, DM concentration, energy content (Unitè Fourragère Lait (UFL)), DM digestibility and inorganic nitrogen (N) fertilizer (kg N/ha) applied for each feedstuff is outlined in Table 1. Based on market prices in March 2022, straight N fertilizers were valued at €2.70/kg N and rolled barley was valued at €390/tonne fresh weight for the purpose of the analysis. Contracting costs were estimated based on the increases observed in fuel prices and other input prices, ad blue, plastic, etc.

Compared to recent years, on average contracting costs rose by 56% in March 2022

  • pit silage = €430/ha (€174/acre)
  • mowing = €80/ha (€32/acre)
  • tedding €30/ha (€12/acre)
  • wrapping = €7.00/bale including plastic).

It is acknowledged that these prices will change throughout 2022 due to market volatility.

Table 1. Assumed dry matter (DM) yields (tonne, t DM/ha), DM percentage, energy content (Unitè Fourragère lait (UFL)), DM digestibility and inorganic N fertilizer (kg/ha) applied for each feedstuff

Table Assumed dry matter (DM) yields (tonne, t DM/ha), DM percentage, energy content (Unitè Fourragère lait (UFL)), DM digestibility and inorganic N fertilizer (kg/ha) applied for each feedstuff

1 First- and second-cut silage were assumed to be cut on 29 May and 17 July, respectively.
2 Remainder of nitrogen requirement was fulfilled via slurry (organic N) application.

Results of the estimated feed costs in spring 2022 and September 2021 

The results of the estimated feed costs in spring 2022 and September 2021 are outlined in Table 2. Unless stated otherwise, prices described in the following text include land charges; however, prices excluding land charges are also presented in Table 2. Costs are also presented per hectare, per tonne (t) DM grown, and a relativity to grazed perennial ryegrass swards on a unit energy basis (which excludes land costs of home-produced feeds). Supplementary feeding costs, particularly those associated with indoor feeding such as mineral and protein supplementation (which is particularly important for fodder beet) are not accounted for in the analysis.

Grazed grass

It is well-established that grazed grass is the cheapest feed in Ireland and, primarily for this reason, it underpins our ruminant production systems. Perennial ryegrass swards have the potential to produce high yields of a highly-digestible forage over a long growing season. Typically this growth has been supported by N application in the form of chemical N such as urea or calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) or organic N in slurry and manure.

At current prices, a grazed grass sward yielding 13 tonnes of DM/hectare and receiving 250 kg N/ hectare (225 kg urea N + 25 kg organic N) is estimated to cost €121/t DM. This represents a 29% increase on 2021, mostly driven by the increases in N fertilizer prices. Therefore under these circumstances, assuming that a yearling steer consumes 7.5 kg DM/ha/day of grazed grass, it costs €0.91 and €0.48 per day to feed a steer grazed grass, including and excluding land costs, respectively.

Legume crops

Legume crops such as white clover have the ability to ‘fix’ N from the atmosphere, thereby replacing to a large extent the requirement for imported N fertilizer sources. In this analysis, we assume that clover fixes 125 kg atmospheric N/ha and therefore, N application is reduced to 125 kg N/ha for a 13 t DM grazed grass sward, reducing estimated total feed costs to €97/t DM. This shows that successfully incorporating clover onto farms can be a strategy for maintaining herbage production, with reduced fertiliser inputs.

The cost of producing grass silage (pit) in this analysis is €204/t DM and €239/t DM for first- and second-cut, respectively. On average across both cuts, harvested in late-May and mid-July, grass silage is estimated to cost €218/t DM (circa €47/t fresh weight), an increase of 27% when compared to 2021. Similarly, baled silage increased by 33% compared to 2021.

The 2022 price increases are ‘driven’ by the same factors as pit silage production as well as the increased plastic and transport costs associated with baled silage production. A breakdown of the costs of producing baled silage in 2021 (€25/bale exc. land) and 2022 (€36/bale exc. land) are outlined in Table 3.

Fodder beet

Feeds such as fodder beet form an important part of the indoor feeding diet on many farms, particularly for finishers. The cost/t DM of fodder beet (including washing and chopping) in 2022 are similar to grass silage at €227/t DM (ca. €43/t fresh weight), representing an increase of 22% when compared to 2021.

Table 2. Estimated costs (€) to produce feed in 2022 at current market prices (March 2022)

Table Estimated costs (€) to produce feed in 2022 at current market prices (March 2022)

1 Fodder beet costs does not include the cost of additional protein supplementation required.
2 Land charge is €741/ha (€300/acre)
3 Excluding land charge associated with home-produced feeds

Purchased concentrate feeds

While the cost of home-produced feed has increased substantially, the rising cost of purchased concentrate feeds is also noteworthy. For example, rolled barley has increased in price to €390/t fresh weight in spring 2022 and may be liable to further increases. When expressed on a DM basis and taking into account feed-out costs to be comparable to the forage crops evaluated, the total feed costs of concentrate rations is estimated to be €470/t DM. This emphasizes the importance of (1) producing sufficient quantities of home-produce feeds, especially forages and (2) ensuring that the quality of feed produced is suitable for the animal type to be fed. If these two objectives are not achieved, then supplementary concentrate feeding will be necessary at a higher cost that the home-produced alternative. In this regard, detailed fodder budgeting (grazing season and indoor winter feeding) is even more important now.

Table 3: Estimated costs (€) to produce baled silage in 2021 and 2022

Table Estimated costs (€) to produce baled silage in 2021 and 2022


The cost of all feeds have increased substantially. Home-produced feeds, and grazed grass in particular, remain our cheapest feed resource, with grass-clover pastures being particularly cost-effective. Following grazed grass, the costs of grass silage and fodder beet are relatively similar when expressed on a per tonne basis. Fodder beet has somewhat lower production costs compared to grass silage when expressed on a per unit energy utilised basis (although these crops have a greater demand for protein and mineral supplementation, which were not included in this analysis, when compared to grass crops). Purchased concentrates such as rolled barley remains an expensive feed resource, costing about five times the price of grazed grass (excluding land charge) on a per tonne DM basis.

Prices quoted in this article are those prevailing at the time of the analysis (final week of March 2022) and are subject to high levels of volatility.

Peter Doyle1, Tomás Tubritt2, Nicky Byrne1, Michael O’Donovan2 and Paul Crosson1

1 Teagasc, Grange, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Dunsany, Co. Meath
2 Teagasc, Moorepark, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Fermoy, Co. Cork