Livestock farmers in Ireland are being advised to complete a fodder budget for their farms to determine their winter feed situation. This comes as it is becoming increasingly likely that some of the winter feed will be used in the coming days and weeks on some farms due to the unpredictable weather conditions. The first half of the year has been described as ‘strange’ for farmers, with weather patterns fluctuating from dry to wet and back to dry again. Spring grazing got off to a false start in many areas as cows were grazing on some farms in late January and early February without any issues. But then the wet weather, that didn’t appear all winter, arrived and forced many farmers back inside with their cows.
This resulted in a challenging spring, with on-off grazing becoming very common on many farms. The spring was hard on cows and farmers, with a large increase in cases of sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA), with the continuous change to diet and the presence of lush leafy grass when cows did get back out, likely contributing to this. But this also meant that on many farms the fodder supplies were eaten into and on some farms, the back of the pit was reached.
Nearly every farm will have harvested their first cut silage, but the weather is also hampering plans for second cut. The dry weather means that spreading of chemical fertiliser is not going to happen, as it will just sit on the surface unused. Unfortunately, if this dry spell continues, many farms may have to feed silage and this could lead to further issues. A fodder budget needs to be completed on farms, to determine what is currently present on farms and what is needed.
This should include bales, remaining silage in the pits from last year and first cut silage if it has been harvested. If silage has to be fed in the coming days and weeks, farmers may need to close more area for second cut or look at buying a standing crop. Unless rain comes in the next week or so, it is also likely that second cut will be delayed and a good portion of the first cut or last year’s leftovers could be gone before farmers get mowing. Ideally, farmers want to be building up a reserve on their farm to ensure that during this dry spell or longer, winter fodder is available.
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has also urged farmers to be vigilant in their use of water during this dry spell. IFA President, Joe Healy, has said that farmers must ensure that they are not taking more than their fair share of water from rivers and lakes. He has also called on farmers to check their water storage facilities to ensure that they are in good working order and to fix any leaks.
The IFA has also advised farmers to take steps to reduce their water usage, such as using water-efficient equipment and reducing the number of times they wash their milking parlours. They have also suggested that farmers should consider installing rainwater harvesting systems to collect water for use on their farms.
The IFA has also called on the government to provide support for farmers during this difficult time. They have urged the government to introduce a fodder transport subsidy to help farmers who need to transport feed from other parts of the country. They have also called on the government to make low-cost loans available to farmers to help them purchase feed and to provide financial assistance to farmers who are struggling to cope with the dry weather.
In conclusion, livestock farmers in Ireland are facing a challenging time due to the unpredictable weather conditions. It is important for farmers to complete a fodder budget to determine their winter feed situation and to take steps to reduce their water usage. The IFA is calling on the government to provide support for farmers during this difficult time, including a fodder transport subsidy and low-cost loans to help farmers purchase feed.