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Weather Related Farming Difficulties - Advice available from Teagasc 

Weather conditions continue to cause difficulties on farms. To help address problems, all Teagasc advisory offices will hold a Weather Crisis Clinic on Thursday, 6 September between 11.00 am and 1.00 pm for all dairy farmers and from 2.00pm to 4.00 pm for all drystock and tillage farmers. This is the second round of weather crisis clinics organised by Teagasc this summer to assist farmers with the ongoing difficulties.

‘Now is the time to establish your fodder position. It is best to act sooner rather than later and starting now will give you time to think through the options available to you for the winter ahead’. This was the advice of Tom O’Dwyer, Teagasc dairy specialist, responding to the recent Teagasc survey on the fodder situation on dairy and drystock farms. The survey showed that almost one third of dairy farms are facing a shortage of fodder this winter.

Continuing he said, “This is not the first time that farmers have been faced with a shortage of winter fodder. They dealt with a similar situation in 2009 and farmers will adapt again this year. However, the big difference this year is that the cost of feeding stock will be a lot higher with concentrates now costing over €300 per tonne.”

The lessons learned in 2009 included;

  • Seek the advice of your Teagasc adviser, family and farming friends, weigh up your options and then take the steps necessary to secure adequate winter fodder.
  • It is going to be more costly to keep stock over the coming winter – you may need to discuss this with your bank manager and feed merchant.
  • Look at options to reduce winter feed costs – including the sale of non-essential stock before the winter e.g. cull cows
  • You are not alone in having to deal with this – most farmers are facing the same problem of poor quality or scarce winter feed.

Teagasc dairy specialist George Ramsbottom said that the first step is to establish the size of the deficit. “If you have at least half of the fodder you need, then you should only buy more fodder if it represents good value for money. At current feed prices that’s up to €28 per round bale of average quality grass silage delivered or half that for good quality barley straw. If it’s costing more than that then buying concentrates makes more sense. Where only half the normal quantity of good quality silage is available, then feed 3 kg of meal to dry dairy cows and 2 kg to weanlings to make up the difference. Reducing demand by finishing cattle or cull cows before housing them is another option worth considering.”

Poor quality fodder is likely to be the second big issue facing farmers this winter, according to Teagasc Animal nutritionist, Siobhan Kavanagh. “Silage harvested in July following a grazing in early April will have a digestibility of less than 60%. Growing weanlings need 3 kg meal along with this sort of material while dairy cows need 2 kg where condition was good at drying off.”

So in summary, establish if you’re going to have enough fodder for the coming winter as soon as possible. If you’re short, take steps now to sort out the deficit. Farmers also need to check the quality of available fodder. Teagasc advisers are equipped and ready to help you make a plan that best suits your situation.