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Teagasc Fodder Survey July 2021

Planning and budgeting for both the quantity and quality of winter fodder available on farms is becoming an increasingly important activity as part of managing the impact of changing weather patterns and mitigating the impacts of climate change on farms.

National picture secure but 8% of farms have significant fodder deficits

Over the last number of weeks, Teagasc advisers have completed almost 650 winter fodder budgets for dry-stock and dairy farmer clients nationwide. This was carried out as part of an initiative to promote better feed security planning on livestock farms. Budgets were completed using the fodder budget function on PastureBase Ireland and were collated by region:

  • Midlands/North East: Cavan, Dublin, Kildare, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Westmeath
  • South East: Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow
  • South West: Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick
  • North West: Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo

The national picture shows drystock farms reporting a projected surplus of approximately 29% (total feed stocks minus total requirements for the sample farms), while dairy farms are similarly well placed at approximately 18% overall surplus.

Feed budget data by region

Table 1 presents the data by region and enterprise.  Here it is shown that dairy farms in the Midland North East region have the smallest surplus, equivalent to 5-7 days feeding in winter. This represents an improvement on 2020. Dairy farms in other regions are showing improved feed reserves which is a positive development. Drystock farms in all regions have reported strong feed surpluses. 

Table 1. Winter feed balance by region and enterprise July 2020

Enterprise Region Winter Fodder balance1 %

 Approx. Days Short

Dairy Midlands North East 106 -
Dairy North West 110 -
Dairy South East 116 -
Dairy South West 122 -
Drystock Midlands North East 128 -
Drystock North West 131 -
Drystock South East 134 -
Drystock South West 127 -

1Based on planned winter feed demand minus current feed stocks 
2 Simple (un-weighted) average of fodder balance per farm in sample

Farms with significant feed deficits

Previous experience of fodder shortages has shown that farms with deficits of greater than 20% at onset of winter face significant practical and financial difficulties feeding their stock. Despite the overall positive position reported in this survey, 7% of dairy farms had a deficit greater than 20% of winter requirements. Similarly, 12% of drystock farms had a deficit greater than 20% of winter requirements.

There was no clear pattern of scale, location or enterprise to characterise farms with greater than 20% feed deficits. This indicates that individual farm management decisions, and not weather or land type issues, may be the primary factor determining feed budget balances.

Commenting on the results of the fodder survey, Joe Patton, Teagasc Survey Co-Ordinator said; “The survey shows all regions are in a quite good position for feed stocks. There were some regional issues with growth rate at certain times of the year but overall farmers have managed winter feed stocks very well. Teagasc recommends carrying a rolling winter feed surplus of 25-30% to insulate against weather shocks and many farms are near that level.”    

Micheal O’Leary, Teagasc PastureBase said; “The fodder budgeting function in PastureBase Ireland is proving very useful for managing winter feed stocks. Autumn grass growth and grazing conditions have been excellent for most regions. Farmers should plan now to extend the grazing season while making sure to meet closing grass cover targets. This will help to reduce overall winter feed demand.”

Dermot McCarthy, Head of Advisory Services in Teagasc said; “This year’s survey indicates that nationally our client farms are secure for winter feed. There is always variation around the average however. We would encourage more farmers to complete their own fodder budgets before winter starts. Teagasc advisers are available to help. Finally, Teagasc would like to thank the farmers who participated in the survey.”