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Tillage Farmers to supply fodder to livestock farmers in innovative way

The fodder crisis is challenging everybody in the industry to come up with innovative solutions to replenish fodder reserves and reduce the risk of a fodder shortage in future years. Seed suppliers, merchants, farm advisors and farmers are taking immediate actions to secure fodder supplies for next winter. New ideas are emerging where an intermediary can help to link and facilitate farmer-to-farmer trade.

Tillage Farmers to supply fodder to livestock farmers in innovative way

The fodder crisis is challenging everybody in the industry to come up with innovative solutions to replenish fodder reserves and reduce the risk of a fodder shortage in future years.  Seed suppliers, merchants, farm advisors and farmers are taking immediate actions to secure fodder supplies for next winter.   New ideas are emerging where an intermediary can help to link and facilitate farmer-to-farmer trade.

For over a decade tillage and livestock farmers have been working together to grow and supply fodder.  There have been some local successes, but a sustainable farm-to-farm trading system has not taken off for a number of reasons.  On one side, the tillage farmer is concerned about payment and delivery, as this deviates away from the merchant payment structure. On the other side, the livestock farmer is worried about quality, quantity and cost of the forage.  

The first step a livestock farmer must take is to complete a winter feed budget for the year ahead.  This will help to identify gaps and where, or if, extra forage is needed.  “Many farms have extra livestock compared to other years, and not only is extra cover needed for these animals, but a larger forage buffer is needed to cover potential adverse weather like this year. It is better to plan and make arrangements for the supply of additional quality fodder sooner rather than later,” said Tom O’Dwyer, Head of Dairy Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc. 

“Trust plays a huge part where farmers are working together.  Where there is trust and a written agreement which is discussed and signed up to by both parties, these arrangements are successful,” commented Thomas Curran, Farm Structures Specialist in Teagasc.  Tom continued; “Sourcing maize close to the farm can be an issue, therefore farmers further apart may need to work together. In these cases the parties involved may not know each other initially; therefore a leap of faith is necessary.  This can be eased considerably where there is an intermediary to help facilitate the arrangement.”

Teagasc are very supportive of all initiatives to further develop the concept of inter-farm trading of forages.  Dairygold, with Teagasc assistance, will run a “Pilot Programme” to closely track a number of these agreements through the year.  The pilot will examine all aspects of growing the crop; site selection, using the Teagasc Maize Agreement template to agree the price and payment structure, soil sampling and matching nutrients for top yield, and utilising organic manures, where possible, to reduce costs.  The Dairygold branch network will be utilised to weigh each load before delivery.  The crop will be analysed for dry matter and starch to ensure the grower is rewarded for producing a quality crop and the end user is charged a fair price for the maize. Dairygold are also looking into utilising the co-op structure to help farmers in the pilot program, with a view to allay fears of non-payment or non-delivery by both parties. 

Teagasc advisors will assist the efforts of all agricultural merchants matching farmers for forage needs in the coming days.  The Teagasc Maize Guide contains an inter-farm trading template which can be used as a guide to base an agreement for the purchase of maize or other crops.  This is being further developed with additional information and safeguards for all parties.  Farmers should ask the local Teagasc advisor for the updated template. 

Ciaran Collins, Tillage Specialist, Teagasc said: “There is a terrific opportunity for tillage farmers to structure a deal with livestock farmers to produce high quality forages and at the same time include an excellent rotational crop on the farm and if the distance allows also include the use for organic manures onto the tillage land.   Diversification in a year of limited options for tillage farmer will bring longer term benefits to the soils and will result in higher yields in the next crops,” Ciaran added.

Contact your local Teagasc advisor in the next few days, if you are interested in growing, or purchasing, forages (maize, beet, wholecrop cereals etc.) for this year and they will do their best to match people locally.

The Maize Guide link is attached

https://www.teagasc.ie/media/website/publications/2017/The-Maize-Guide.pdf