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Monitor forage levels now to avoid a winter shortage

Monitor forage levels now to avoid a winter shortage
By Alasdair Taylor 2 years ago

With the hot and dry weather reducing grass availability, producers are being advised to monitor and budget forage stocks now to avoid a shortfall come winter.

The dry conditions experienced in June has really hampered grass growth and quality, and as a result, an increasing number of producers are already using up first cut silage. With limited forage left over from last year this is a concern, particularly because yields for the 2018 silage season are already predicted to be down.

Reduced early grass growth resulted in many producers having to graze groundwhich would usually have been put up for silage. On top of this, the dry conditions are limiting the potential of third and fourth cuts, making a shortage look likely. To help the situation, producers who are buffer feeding should consider incorporating alternative feed sources to ‘stretch out’ the silage while maintaining optimum levels of performance.

There are cost-effective feed alternatives available that could help reduce the quantity of silage required and balance the shortfalls in grazing. With raw material prices remaining volatile, especially soya, look for British sourced alternatives where possible to keep feed costs down.

It is important to get forage regularly analysed so that it can be balanced with the correct raw material to prevent under or over supplying nutrients. This will allow an accurate buffer ration to be formulated.

Producers should be monitoring and managing how much silage is going to be available, to help plan and budget for winter. It is important to calculate the volume of forage available in each clamp in terms of dry matter content and determine how long it will take to get through. This will alert producers to potential shortfalls and they can then push for additional cuts of silage this season if necessary.

Alasdair Taylor

Dairy Technical Specialist