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Securing Winter Fodder Reserves – A priority for the Future Beef participants

Gabriel Trayers, Future Beef Programme advisor discusses Securing Winter Fodder Reserves – A priority for the Future Beef participants here. It is vital that all farmers plan to make top quality silage, which is what Shane Keaveny Future Beef participant in Co Roscommon is aiming for

The current worldwide events is putting huge upward pressure on the prices and supply of key farming inputs. The immediate concern for farmers is the price and availability of fertiliser but also what will be the cost and the supply of concentrate be like next winter ?  There is evidence that some farmers are reducing the amount of fertiliser being spread for silage and will delay planned cutting dates instead. As a result, silage quality fed next winter  will be poor  at a time when there will be concern about  concentrate price and availability.  In this scenario, where stock will get poor quality silage with little or no meal, animal performance will suffer greatly. Therefore, it is vital that farmers plan to make top quality 72%DMD silage for their priority stock by the end of May and have 75% of their overall fodder made by the end of June. Making top quality silage will reduce the requirement for concentrate next winter.

Making top quality silage will reduce the requirement for concentrate next winter

Shane Keaveny - Future Beef Farmer

Shane Keaveny is a participant in the Teagasc Future Beef Programme. He farms full-time just outside the town of Ballinlough in Co.Roscommon. He calves 35 cows and finishes the males as bulls at under 16mths and heifers are sold as forward stores. Calving started at the beginning of February and by the 29th of March, 33 of the 35 cows had calved.


There is a big demand for grass and all of the ground received ½ bag of urea in February. Currently there are 14 calved cows and 20 yearling heifers out grazing. 


There is enough silage (27bales) to feed the remaining stock housed for the month of April. As the average grass cover is low at  500kgs/Dm/ha and currently with  poor grass growths, no more stock will be let out for 2 weeks.  Therefore there will be very little reserves of fodder left to carry over.

To ensure that sufficient fodder is made the following simple fodder budget was used for the farm (see the table below)


The Silage Plan

For the first cut, 32 acres will be closed. This area has been grazed tightly in March and slurry has been applied at 3000gal/acre using Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) last week. As the area is low in P & K, 1 bag of 10.10.20/acre with 1.5 bags of Urea has been applied this week. The plan is to aim for a quality  silage at 72%DMD + so the target cutting is May 20th. This should provide 260 bales.

Another 20 acres will be closed for second cut silage. There is slurry kept back for this cut and it will be topped up with protected urea which was sourced at the beginning of the year. The aim is to cut 68% DMD silage at the end of June  which will be fed to the suckler cows. Therefore, this crop can be allowed to bulk up and should yield another 18 bales. The total silage area will yield approx. 430 bales.

The remaining 70bales+ will be made as surplus bales from the grazing platform. By walking the farm weekly and measuring grass on PastureBase Ireland, decisions can be taken to ensure that there is a continuous supply of quality grass throughout the grazing season. In most years, rather than trying to graze heavy covers, these paddocks are mowed and taken out as bales. The yield might only be 3-4 bales/acre but the quality is generally very good.

Making quality silage has always been good advice to reduce meal costs and drive animal performance over the winter period. In 2022 the advice has never been as more important given the circumstances that we are in.

The Future Beef Programme

The Future Beef Programme is a network of 22 demonstration farms located throughout Ireland. The farms mainly operate suckler beef systems, but some also have lowland sheep enterprises enterprises and two farms are organic. The aim of the programme is to demonstrate to beef farmers how they can produce a quality product as efficiently as possible to make beef farming more profitable, while also making it more environmentally and socially sustainable.

For more information please see; Grazed grass is still the cheapest and best feed for cattle and Making Quality Silage (pdf)

Read more about The Future Beef Programme here and about Shane Keaveny's farm

The Teagasc Beef Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to Suckler and Beef farmers every Wednesday here on Teagasc Daily.  Find more on Teagasc Beef here  Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. Find your local Teagasc office here