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Assess your silage requirements – complete a fodder budget

Assess your silage requirements – complete a fodder budget

What happens on farm over the next few weeks will have a significant impact to silage stocks on dairy farms for next winter. Silage in the yard is money in the bank. James Dunne, Teagasc Dairy Specialist, advises on completing a fodder budget as planning ahead to secure enough feed is important now

"Silage in the yard is money in the bank.” This is an age old idea, but it remains a core principle of managing risk on dairy farms.  A rolling reserve of one months feed (equivalent to about two bales) above normal winter feed requirements should be in place to cope with adverse weather. With fertiliser N prices currently at very high levels, this year is clearly not ideal for building reserves. However, the requirement to plan ahead to secure enough feed is more important than ever, because the cost of filling silage shortages next winter is also likely to be prohibitive.

Completing a fodder budget

A good measure of whether you made enough silage last year is how much silage you have left over this spring. So, check your silage levels before looking at any tables of data or budgeting programs.

Other things you need to establish include:

  • Will there be more stock on-farm compared to last year?
  • Will you end up cutting less area than last year?
  • What is your fertiliser strategy for silage crops this year?

Can the current silage reserves match any changes? If not, then the farm stands a high risk of running into a deficit next winter.

The feed budget function in PastureBase Ireland (www.pbi.ie) offers an excellent means of developing a budget that can be updated during the year otherwise you may carry out a simple budget as per the example below for your own farm. Remember when completing a budget that a correctly fertilised first cut crop should yield 10 ton per acre and a second cut crop 7 ton per acre while allowing for variation due to soil fertility issues or old swards.

As part of this plan, you may need to consider offloading non-productive or marginal stock to reduce demand before the onset of winter next year. Carrying lower grade stock on very expensive silage is difficult to justify. Selling poor performers, high SCC, lame or late calving cows has the potential to reduce any deficit or increase the reserve on farm.  For each cow sold now 25 ton additional silage will be available next winter. This is halved to 12.5 ton of a saving if these cows remain on farm until next September.

There are too many variables involved to make farm-specific recommendations, so the best advice is to contact your Teagasc advisor to run a simple silage forward budget based on your own figures.



The Teagasc Dairy Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to dairy farmers every Monday here on Teagasc Daily. Find out more about  Fertilising for First Cut Grass Silage here  

If you have any questions about this topic talk to your Teagasc advisor.