Teagasc has estimated that 15% of dairy and beef farms could see significant fodder deficits in February and March if weather conditions are poor.

The information was presented at the National Fodder and Food Security Committee.

A presentation from Teagasc livestock knowledge transfer specialists Joe Patton and Pearse Kelly outlined how the fodder situation is relatively stable on both dairy and beef farms.

They highlighted that the risk of shortages is dependent on spring weather and managing turnout of livestock to grass. They also pointed out that silage is available to purchase and that some farmers had included the option to purchase fodder in their winter feed budgeting plans.

Beef farms are judged to be in a relatively secure position, with feedback from the commercial farms participating in the knowledge transfer programmes that they are in a good position for feed at present, Teagasc said.


Head of the grassland research department in Teagasc Michael O’Donovan presented the grass growth figures for 2023, which were in line with the 10-year average.

He particularly pointed to the grass growth over the winter period, which has yielded strong pasture covers on farms. He also said that this grass will be available for grazing once cows calve and are turned out.

It was also pointed out that farmers should plan for early nitrogen and slurry applications to improve spring grass production, while following with best practice guidelines on managing risks of nutrient losses.

Michael Hennessy, head of tillage knowledge transfer in Teagasc, urged growers to carefully inspect winter crops, which are patchy due to the rainfall levels over the winter. He said it might not be profitable to re-plant.

Spring planting

In terms of the upcoming spring crop planting season, he advised growers to maximise the planting of winter wheat up to the middle of February, spring wheat, beans, and oats and to explore forage market opportunities.

Given that seed availability will be very tight or may not be available when needed, he advised farmers to assess their seed requirements as soon as possible and order from merchants.

Following contributions from the wide range of stakeholders represented on the committee, chair Mike Magan summarised the meeting highlighting a number of key messages and advice for farmers in the coming weeks and months.

Overall, there is consensus of overall fodder availability to be sufficient, but that individual farmers need to assess and take early action around securing feed where necessary.


Challenges around the availability of straw was also a strong recurring message in the contributions from committee members.

The concern of straw availability will give rise to farmers prioritising straw for calving and lambing. The potential risk around issues such potential blackgrass seeds around straw imports was highlighted as needing consideration when handling and moving imported straw.

The committee discussed how greater ongoing attention to the national requirement for straw and ongoing monitoring of stocks in a similar way to fodder would be beneficial, as would the ongoing efforts to increase the overall tillage area.