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Teagasc Fodder Survey July 2023

Over the last number of weeks, Teagasc advisors have completed almost 500 preliminary winter fodder budgets for dry-stock and dairy farmer clients nationwide. This work forms part of an on-going advisory programme to promote better planning of winter fodder security on livestock farms. Data were presented this morning, Wednesday, 19th July to the National Fodder and Feed Security Committee.

Data were collected on farms from mid-June to early July, after completion of first silage cuts. The working targets for this stage of the year are for dairy herds to have at least 70% of silage on hand, and for drystock farms to have at least 75-80% of silage on hand. Second cut crops and other additional forage stocks will be added to final budgets in September. 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 that on average, dairy and drystock farms are on target for adequate winter fodder supplies after completion of first silage cuts. There is little variation between regions or scale of farm with enterprises (Table 1). There were however, approximately 15% of dairy and drystock farms with less than 40% of their winter feed requirement on hand in July. Projecting forward, normal to average July to September grass growth plus adequate yields of second cut silage, should leave the majority of livestock farms in a relatively secure position. Those farms with larger deficits require significant increases to the secured feed supply in the coming months.

Table 1. Winter Feed balance by region and enterprise July 2023

Enterprise Region Winter Fodder Balance1 %
Dairy Overall Target after first cuts 70%
Dairy Midlands North East 74%
Dairy North West 68%
Dairy South East 71%
Dairy South West 75%
Drystock Overall target after first cuts 75-80%
Drystock Midlands North East 82%
Drystock North West 82%
Drystock South East 80%
Drystock South West 83%

1Based on planned winter feed demand minus current feed stocks. Second cuts to be added.

Farms with significant feed deficits

Despite the overall positive position reported in the Fodder survey data, 15% of farms surveyed were significantly behind target for winter feed at this stage of the production year cycle. It remains to be seen how second cut yields will affect the final budget on these farms. There was no clear pattern of scale, location or enterprise to characterise farms with significant 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. A critical message arising from the survey is for all farms to engage in a fodder assessment for the farm, and put steps in place to make-up on supply deficits before the winter. Taking second cuts at the right time, and planning for building grazing covers for the autumn are key decisions in the weeks ahead.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Joe Patton, Teagasc Survey Co-Ordinator said; “The survey shows all regions are in a good position for this time of year. There were some regional issues with growth rate in early summer but overall farmers have managed to build silage stocks quite well so far. Of course, the situation could change depending on second cut yields and autumn weather, but for the most part the situation is good. Teagasc recommends carrying a rolling silage surplus of 25-30% as a buffer. Many farms should be able to reach that level this year with correct management.” 

Ciaran Hearn, Teagasc PastureBase said: “The fodder budgeting function on PastureBase Ireland is proving very useful for managing winter feed stocks, and we are adding new features to this function in the coming months. Farmers should also begin planning to extend the grazing season by starting to build grass covers in August. This will help to reduce overall winter feed demand.”

Tom Curran, Head of Advisory Services in Teagasc also added that: ”This provisional survey indicates that nationally our client farms are on target for winter feed. There is always variation around the average however. We would encourage more farmers to complete their own fodder budget, especially if they are concerned about their current situation. Options are available and our Teagasc advisors will help with these decisions. Finally, Teagasc would like to thank all the farmers who participated in the survey.”

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