Farmers were tested this spring when poor forage quality and a shortage of grass brought on a crisis. But many managed to get through it, thanks to the goodwill and cooperation of neighboring farms. They sold surplus fodder at cost, coupling with local co-ops to purchase fodder from across the EU. Farmers were supplied with the forage they needed to navigate the crisis.
Even after the spring, there were still challenges ahead. The shortage of quality forages resulted in reduced animal performance, which in turn impacted farm receipts. This affected the cash flow on some farms and will continue to affect farmers’ incomes for the remainder of 2013.
There's reason to be optimistic now. Excellent grass growth this summer has presented farmers with the opportunity to build up sufficient fodder reserves. A recent Teagasc fodder survey in September shows there is a fodder surplus of 8 percent for a 140-day winter. Farmers need to carry out a fodder budget on farm allowing 1.4–1.6 tonne pit silage per month for beef and dairy cows, respectively. If reserves are low, farmers should consider purchasing additional forage or supplementing existing forage with purchased concentrates. Farmers should also consider scanning cows and selling empty cows or problem cows in order to reduce demand.
Now is the time for farmers with a fodder deficit to seek advice and put a plan in place to manage this deficit. The crisis of the spring is in the past, but there will still be challenges to meet.