With first cut in the clamp and some second cuts harvested, now is the time to calculate and update your winter feed requirements. Most of the country is now suffering from drought conditions with aftermaths struggling to re-establish, the roll-on effect will be forage shortages for many livestock farmers.
Comparing the national grass growth curve year to date vs last year shows a deficit of 25kgDM/ha growth over the 10 weeks to end May is a loss of 140 TDM after allowing for 20% losses which would be consumed or conserved. This is 500 tonnes FW and this is only till the end of May!
Regularly calculating forage stocks allows for the anticipation of shortages and gives farmers time to explore their options. If shortages are discovered early, several options exist to remedy the situation. These include:
• Forward purchasing of grass or other forages now has the advantage of lower prices.
• Reduce animal numbers.
• Re-balance rations, substituting some high fibre co-products for a portion of the forage.
• Re-balance rations, reallocating forages based on availability.
Determine forage quality.
In addition to determining total amounts of forage, segregating forages by quality, especially in a year when forage could be expensive, may help increase farm profitability. The best time to sample and analyse forages is during harvest. Clamps and bales can be identified by the quality and recorded allowing the best quality to be used to maximise production. Bales marked up with spray paint is a good physical way of indicating amounts and quality.
The table below is a good example on working out your forage requirements, this should be part of your forward forage budget.
Do not get caught out! If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail! Forward planning will have less of an impact on your feeding plans and your business next winter. If you require assistance in putting a realistic cost effective feed plan in place, please contact Mark at email@example.com or your local FCG Office.