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Teagasc Fodder Survey Update October 2023

Teagasc have recently updated the national fodder survey across dairy and drystock farms nationwide. It comes as a follow-up to a provisional survey completed in late June after first cut silage completion, and forms part of an on-going advisory programme to promote better planning of feed security on livestock farms

National situation stable but 10 to 15% of farms require corrective action

The provisional data in June had shown dairy and drystock farms were, on average, on target for winter feed. This was contingent on achieving normal second cut yields and grazing season length. The results in June also showed however that approximately 15 % of Teagasc farmer clients were at significant risk of feed deficits, which was consistent across the regions and enterprise type.   

The updated October Fodder Survey results now include second cut silage crops, and account for silage used to date due to poor autumn weather conditions. The regions were defined as:

  • 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 results show that 75% of farms surveyed have a surplus of winter feed in stock. The proportion of farms short of silage ranged from 9% to 15% depending on region, with the North West tighter for feed supply than average. The survey also identified a cohort of 10% to 20% of farms (depending on region) that are at risk of being tight for winter feed. The key risk factor is a possible extended duration of winter feeding. These data are consistent across enterprise type within region and tally well with the provisional survey outcomes.  

Table 1. Winter feed balance by region and enterprise October 2023

Region Adequate or surplus silage1 Some risk/ tight supply2 Short
Midlands North East 81% 10% 9%
North West 67% 18% 15%
South East 68% 20% 12%
South West 82% 10% 8%

1Based on planned winter feed demand and current feed stocks. 2At risk = supplies may be inadequate for an extended duration of winter

Other results from the survey showed that 16% of farms (predominantly drystock) had fewer animals this year, and approximately 17% had less silage on hand compared to last year. Of the farms identified as being short or at risk of being short of feed, 53% intended to purchase silage, 25% intended to reduce stock, and 23% were planning a combination of both. Just over 5% of farms have tested silage quality to date. In summary, the national picture for winter feed availability is relatively secure, with a requirement for close monitoring on 10% to 20% of farms, and corrective action needed on 10% to 15% of farms.  These farms are advised to act early to balance feed budgets and seek advice if needed. Farmers are also advised to consider how silage quality may have affected by challenging weather conditions during 2023, particularly for later cuts. 

Commenting on the results of the survey, Kate McCarthy , Teagasc Survey Co-Ordinator said; ”The updated fodder survey shows that most farms are in a relatively good position for winter feed, despite the challenging weather in late summer and autumn. However, a higher proportion of farms in regions such as the North West may be at risk of feed shortages due to a combination of difficult second cuts and an earlier start to silage feeding. These issues could surface next spring if left unchecked, so we encourage farmers to assess their own situation promptly and take action.”    

Tom Curran, Head of Advisory Services Teagasc said; ”While our client farms are broadly on target for winter feed, a significant proportion of farms need to be watchful of winter feed stocks in the coming weeks and months. As always, the options to fix shortages are better value and more plentiful, if early action is taken. We would like to thank again all the farmers who completed the survey, and I encourage any farmer with concerns on this issue to contact our local offices for independent advice. We encourage all farmers to do their own individual fodder budget to assess the situation on their own farm, and to assess appropriate diet formulations based on silage quality and feeding value.”