2019-20, a dry summer followed a wet autumn and a very wet spring, so many producers entered this growing season with negligible stocks of forage. In most parts of the country the weather has been a fickle enemy this year, difficult to predict and difficult to endure. Many desperately needed to rebuild stocks of forage and straw for the coming 2020/21 winter, but it seems large numbers have simply been unable to do so.
A survey by AHDB has shown how concerned dairy producers are. More than 60% of respondents to the survey said they had forage quantity concerns, and a further 53% were short of bedding. Clearly prices of both are high, and potentially will go higher. It all depends on the weather, as so often is the case.
The first thing to do is to calculate your stocks. How much forage have you got? How much do you need – if things (i.e. the weather) get bad? So, what is the size of the problem? Similarly, for bedding, how big is your deficit? When you know whether you have a deficit or not, you can start to plan your way out of it.
Should you decide not to buy in either forage or bedding, should you cull poorer cows, or can you contract out the rearing of your heifers? Can you use deferred grazing, out wintering, or some other option to solve your problem?
One other matter that can up-skittle your plans is a bad TB result, meaning you cannot move non-dairy calves (or other cattle) off your holding easily. Having a contingency plan for this is important if your TB risk is high. Maybe talk it all through with your FCG consultant, and analyse the pros and cons of each option. Don’t bury your head in the sands and hope that the problem will disappear!
Contact Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local FCG Office, for further advice.