Published Wednesday, 13th September 2017 in SAC Consulting news
SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College, is calling on all livestock farmers in areas affected by wet summer weather to plan for the coming winter to ensure adequate feed levels.
Andrew Taylor, based at the SAC Consulting office in Ayr commented, “The poor weather over the past few months has caused many farms to house stock earlier than anticipated. We are encouraging all farmers in this situation to do feed budgeting now. Leaving this until January only compounds the issue making the problem worse.
"If other farms are in the same boat it will also increase the cost of forage to be purchased. In the west, 2017 has had one of the wettest summers on record - the other two years with similar summers (1985 and 2012) both had late cold springs in the next year.”
Many areas of the country have not made the levels and quality of forage required especially with 2nd Cut silages. They also face high costs for the winter such as straw which is already at a high price when delivered. The obvious consequence is a severe shortage of forage to overwinter stock but, equally important, is the impact this has had on the performance of animals this summer.
With fields still “shut up” for conservation there have been no aftermaths for stock to graze this autumn. As a result, grass intake for perhaps the last two months have been severely restricted, all of which will have had a direct impact on performance, be it growth rates, fertility or cow/ewe condition.
In this situation SAC Consulting is offering the following advice –
- Sell all lambs/calves store. To maximise sale weights start creep feeding ASAP.
- Check cow/ewe condition now and if they are lean wean ASAP but ensure calves/lambs have been on creep feed for at least three weeks before weaning.
- Pregnancy Diagnose all cows now and cull all barren animals ASAP before prices begin to fall with the autumn glut.
- Be particularly hard when drawing ewes to go to the tup this autumn. With feed limited/expensive this winter only keep the fittest ewes.
- Investigate opportunities for away wintering which will usually be cheaper than buying feed into remote areas.
- Concentrates are cheaper per unit of energy/protein to transport than roughage.
- Consider strip grazing possible silage ground rather than trying to make very poor quality silage in wet conditions. Use a back fence to minimise poaching.
- If required supplement the standing grass with purchased concentrate.
- If ground conditions allow, consider mowing two or three swaths for the next few days, placing an electric fence in the middle of each swath to act as a feed barrier. This will minimise wastage, leave a uniform mown sward to regrow ready for the spring and reduce poaching.
- Consider a similar approach, similar to all grass wintering, for the ewes.
For further advice and support, contact your local SAC Consulting office for how to best plan for what could be a tricky winter.
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