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Complete a Fodder Budget now to Correct Winter Silage Deficits

Complete a Fodder Budget now to Correct Winter Silage Deficits

James Concannon, Walsh Scholar highlights that a fodder budget is an effective tool when it comes to quantifying fodder requirements for your farm this Winter. Now is the best time to take action regarding your Winter fodder so any deficits can be addressed due to the grass still growing.

Grassland Management

It was a late spring this year with slow grass growth, followed by a burst of growth from late May onwards with grass now in abundance here in the West.  Grass supply appears to be tighter in other parts of the country and higher stocked farms. With the late spring came the emptying of bale and pit silage reserves on most farms, with very little surplus left. So, as we are now at the start of August, it would be of benefit to have a look at your farm’s fodder situation for next winter and see if you need to conserve more silage before the growing season ends.  Generally speaking, the most cost effective silage you can make is from your own farm. Purchasing silage can be justified if it can be got from a reliable source at a reasonable price. We also want to ensure that a good cover of grass is built up on the farm from August onwards to extend the grazing season for as long as possible, while also setting up the farm for an early turnout next spring, weather permitting of course.

What is a fodder budget?

An effective tool at quantifying the fodder requirements for your farm this winter is completing a fodder budget. It will take into account what fodder has already been made to date and what will be further required to be ensiled. It will also take into account if you plan to buy in fodder, feed concentrates and if you plan to use other feeds e.g. Fodder Beet. The fodder budget simply calculates a feed requirement based on what number of livestock you plan to house for the winter. You can plan for any length of winter. For instance, your farm might generally have a housing period of 4 months, but you can calculate how much fodder you need for a 5 month winter, in order for you to cover yourself for delayed turnout due to a wet spring. Remember, a fodder surplus is always more advantageous than a fodder deficit.

The Fodder Budget should also take into account what fields you have taken up for second cut (estimating expected yield) as well as any surplus bales you intend to make. Spreading 20-30 units of N after grazed paddocks will boost grass production and will give you the opportunity to remove surplus grass in the form of bales.

Animal Type No. of stock to be kept over winter No. of months (Include a 4-6 week reserve) Pit silage needed, tonnes/ animal/ month Tonnes of silage needed - Multiply (AxBxC)
Dairy Cows     1.6  
Suckler Cows     1.4  
0-1 year old     0.7  
1-2 year old     1.3  
2+ year old     1.3  
Ewes     0.15  
Total tonnes needed  D  
Total bales needed (tonnes multiplied by 1.25)  E  

How to deal with a winter silage deficit

If you look to be falling into a deficit of winter fodder there are a number of options you can take to counteract this:

  • Sourcing quality fodder off a reliable source
  • Selling stock such as cull ewes/cows, weanlings, etc.
  • Selling store cattle/lambs that you planned to keep for the winter
  • Group forward stores for extra meal feeding to get them ready for sale before housing.
  • Cut surplus grass as baled silage over the next number of weeks

It is better to take action now with regards to your winter fodder requirements so any deficits can be addressed this time of the year while grass is still growing. Contact your local Teagasc advisor if you would like help in completing a fodder budget this winter.