Despite grass availability finally increasing, most producers are still facing a winter forage shortfall and careful planning is required to eke out silage stocks.
“A lack of available grazing for most of the summer means that many producers have been buffer feeding for a longer period than usual,” says InTouch’s feeding specialist David Jones.
“With little forage left from 2017, due to this spring’s delayed turnout, a significant proportion of this year’s silage has already been fed.”
As a result, winter feeding is going to present a challenge and producers need to act now to avoid their forage running out.
“The first step is to measure how much forage you have and budget accordingly. By measuring silage stocks and testing quality, you can determine how much you have available on a dry-matter basis. This can then be allocated to the number of stock on-farm, based on a normal winter-feeding period, and will flag up the level of shortfall. It’s all about balancing supply and demand,” he says.
If silage stocks are not sufficient, Mr Jones advises producers to source additional feed as soon as possible, because prices are expected to rise, and availability could be limited.
“When buying forage replacers, buy according to the cost of a tonne of dry matter, as feeds that appear good-value for the season can be expensive if they have a high moisture content,” he says.
Mr Jones also warns that rations will require careful balancing to ensure that all nutritional requirements are met.
“While straw and hay are fairly good-value in DM terms, appropriate protein and energy sources will be required to make up the nutritional gap.
“It’s estimated that producers could already be facing an increased cost of production of around 3ppl, so forward planning and increased feeding accuracy will be even more important to maintain margins,” he adds.