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Food and Fodder Security for Dairy Farmers

Advice for dairy farmers on ensuring feed security

Keep grass in the milking cow diet and apply N fertiliser

Grassland Management

  • Grazed grass remains by far the best value feed for milking cows and young stock
  • Aim for 2 grazings a day with the milking herd topped up with moderate concentrate. Use on-off grazing in wet weather
  • Target end of first rotation by early to mid-April depending on location
  • Get replacement heifers out to grass to boost growth rates and save silage


  • Apply fertiliser as soon as possible at least 30 units of Nitrogen (N) per acre
  • Have 60 units of Nitrogen applied per acre by early April
  • Check soil samples, low index P & K soils require at least 1.5 bags of 18-6-12 per acre by the end of April (subject to allowances).
  • Apply lime where required, to release soil P and a possible 64 units of N per acre

Planning for Sufficient Feed For Next Winter

 Fodder Budget

  • Silage is still much cheaper than meal at 20 cents v 44cents per kg dry matter
  • A 50kg bag of urea/acre (€50-60) can grow 7 tonnes of fresh weight silage
  • Plan silage requirements for next winter: How much is left in the pits, how much do you have to grow this season?
  • Ensure to build in a month’s reserve feed
  • Plan for top quality silage 72 DMD + for younger stock and freshly calved cows
  • Plan for first cut by end of May at latest- delaying will reduce annual yield and result in poor quality
  • A few too many cows in summer can cause large deficits in winter- selling 5 cows in April could put an extra 100 tonnes of silage in the pit next winter

Fertiliser for silage

  • Target slurry for silage ground due to its high P and K requirements
  • First cut silage requires at least 80 units of Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K) and 16 units of Phosphorous (including slurry).
  • 3,000 gallons of slurry and 1.2 bags of protected urea + 15 units of sulphur (80 units of N) or 3 bags 13 – 6 – 20 and 1 bag pro Urea + 15 units of sulphur (80 units of N)
  • 75% of all silage required should be saved by June
  • Don’t rely on surplus bales, as you won’t get as many if fertiliser application on grazing area is reduced

Read also - Silage - short-term savings could prove costly next winter (pdf) 

Additional actions 

  • Milk record to identify unproductive stock – cull some high cell count cows, lame cows, low producers
  • Complete a cash flow budget
  • Speak to your contractor in good time to plan main work for the year
  • Contact your advisor for help on feed and financial budgeting

Grass Silage Stock Checker

Use our online stock checker here to calculate:

  1. Grass Silage Required for Next Winter
  2. Grass Silage Available for Next Winter