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Some suggestions to be proactive in a difficult forage year

12 July 2018

Some suggestions to be proactive in a difficult forage year

With less than 20% of normal rainfall falling in the South West in June, we see ourselves in a situation not seen for many years. They tell me it’s getting like 1976!!! Following one of the wettest and for most, longest winters seen for years.
Most forage supplies were depleted this spring with many farmers either feeding all their silage or selling any surplus to help a neighbour out or help cashflow. 1st cuts were generally good but not heavy and 2nd cuts have been the same. One customer said he cut 3rd cut 24 days after 2nd because the ryegrass was going to head.
In these circumstances there are a few practical things that can be done to reduce the stress now and alleviate potential winter shortages.

Cull any barren or lame cows which are not contributing enough to the milk tank,

Manage the dry matter intake drop in cows as the primary goal in keeping them right, this maybe by feeding more forage if it can be sourced. Wholecrop if possible or consider hay to add a few kg to the diet. A lot of good hay has been made in recent weeks, buying hay in at 85% DM for around £130/tonne might not be expensive this winter, when winter stocks have been preserved.

Try to stick to a rotation rather than eating out as when it does rain, grass needs grass to grow and recover quickly. Protect residuals from over grazing, take cows off onto a sacrifice paddock if you risk grazing below 1500kgDM/ha.
Planning and budgeting is an essential part, measuring existing stocks to calculate how much is in store and how much is needed. Measure silage clamp quantity by lengthxwidthxheight= cubic metres of silage x 180kgDM/cubis metre and then work back into fresh weight.
Bales will vary, take a silage sample to get an indication of dry matter and then weigh some to indicate the amount of feed available.
If rain comes at the end of next week, there is a chance a late cut of grass can be taken in Sepetmber and possibly a further cut in October/November.

If you are unsure whether to take cereals as wholecrop or been offered standing maize, take it. Good cereal crops at £600/acre will work out cheaper per tonne DM than most moist feeds.
Sugarbeet pulp going into the winter may also be restricted so booking early will be essential, if your unsure whether to commit, do it.
Planting a crop of fodder kale will enable youngstock to stay out later and reduce the need for forage and bedding in the Autumn.

If you require help with forage planning please give the office a call on 01395 239995.

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