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Plan Now To Avoid Fodder Shortages Next Winter

Every farmer should put a good fodder and financial plan in place now to get through next winter. That was the main message from a Teagasc Fodder and Financial Planning Event held today, Tuesday, 28 May on the farm of Peter and Margaret Duggan at Killeenleigh, Kanturk, County Cork. At today’s farm walk, which was organised by Teagasc Advisory Kanturk, in conjunction with the IFA and local co-ops, farmers were urged to think of the options to ensure that there is sufficient feed in yards for livestock next winter and to make the most efficient use of grass grown on the farm for the remainder of 2013. Farmers were also advised to plan for the inevitable cash flow issues created by large feed bills from the winter of 2012/2013.

James Fleming Teagasc Kanturk, adviser to the Duggans, outlined the farming system which consists of 160 cows being milked on the grazing platform of 58.5 hectares, which is also carrying all calves until August. There are also 17 hectares of this area closed for first silage. The outside farm carries the beef cattle and replacement heifers and 28 hectares of first cut silage. James Fleming said that while the farm has some dry ground it mainly consists of heavy clay soils typical of Duhallow, an area that received over 73 inches of rain in 2012.

Ger Courtney Teagasc Heavy Soils Project and Kerry Monitor Farms Co-ordinator, said that every effort must be made to grow additional grass over the next eight weeks and conserve it as silage. He pointed out that 1 tonne of CAN fertiliser could potentially yield up to 60 bales of silage (cost €340 for benefit of €1500 @ €25 per bale: response rate of 50 kg grass dry matter per kg N assumed).

Teagasc will be carrying out a national fodder audit at the start of July and again at the start of October. Siobhan Kavanagh, Teagasc Nutrition Specialist, said that it is absolutely critical for every farmer to complete a fodder audit in the coming weeks and to formulate strategies to deal with any impending feed deficits. She outlined the various options available to farmers who find themselves in a feed deficit situation.

Pat Barry Teagasc Kanturk spoke about the economics of feeding cattle over the summer months and urged the planned marketing of stock to maximise value. He also stated that this year it will be very important to match stock numbers to the quantities of silage available. There can be no room for passengers in the system for the coming winter.

Inevitably many farms have suffered damage to grazing paddocks both last summer and this spring, David Trant, Teagasc Listowel, discussed ways to restore and repair damaged grass swards.

Fergal O’Mahoney, Teagasc Midleton and Tadgh Buckley, AIB gave valuable advice to farmers who are counting the financial cost of the early winter and late spring. It’s important to identify the problem and to make contact with the merchants and lending institutions as early as possible.

All the speakers concurred that every farmer should realise that they are not alone in the crisis which has unfolded and should seek advice and support from the organisations in the sector.