- Farmers need to manage fodder carefully –


After one of the longest winters in Irish history –which was preceded by a Summer where lack of sunshine, and record amounts of rainfall all combined to use up all the reserves of fodder within the country and left us in a situation where we needed to rely on imports of fodder from the UK to see us through this period, farmers who normally would have reserves built up over years found themselves with nothing. This has made it all the more important that fodder be saved this year. The early cut silage, while excellent in quality, suffered from lack of quantity. People held off cutting hay but eventually fine crops of hay were saved. The problem now is that the extended drought which followed has impacted on grass growth and many farmers who would have planned on a second cut of silage are now in a position where that silage ground may have to be grazed. It is very important that people start assessing the situation for winter right now. This includes placing close attention to the fodder monitor which has been provided by Teagasc and distributed through the farmer’s journal and other sources; because the first part of dealing with any problem is knowing its scale and potential. I’d like to commend Teagasc for this timely initiative (details below). It is not all negative, however; the silage and hay saved to date is of top quality. Also, unfortunately for the cereal farmers but to the benefit of the livestock farmers, cereal grains have collapsed in value and farmers can forward purchase straights such as barley and wheat at very competitive prices right through into January next year. This can allow them to incorporate grains along with their fodder to stretch it out. I would not recommend that people become lax and feel that grain prices will continue to be weak; because history has always shown us that when milk prices are strong,
grain prices tend to follow. Also – the safety valve of imported fodder from the UK may not be as plentiful in 2012/2013, so we need to have ourselves organised beforehand.  While we may never see a prolonged winter like last year again, we must, however, plan for it. Having some reserves in place will ensure healthy livestock and peace of mind. If anyone needs help or direction on this issue, please contact my office.