For over a decade tillage and livestock farmers have been working together to grow and supply fodder. There have been some local successes, but a sustainable farm-to-farm trading system has not taken off for a number of reasons. On one side, the tillage farmer is concerned about payment and delivery, as this deviates away from the merchant payment structure. On the other side, the livestock farmer is worried about quality, quantity and cost of the forage.

“It is better to plan and make arrangements for the supply of additional quality fodder sooner rather than later,” said Tom O’Dwyer, head of dairy knowledge transfer in Teagasc.

“Where there is trust and a written agreement which is discussed and signed up to by both parties, these arrangements are successful,” commented Thomas Curran, farm structures specialist in Teagasc.

Leap of faith

Curran continued: “Sourcing maize close to the farm can be an issue, therefore farmers further apart may need to work together. In these cases, the parties involved may not know each other initially; therefore a leap of faith is necessary. This can be eased considerably where there is an intermediary to help facilitate the arrangement.”

Dairygold, with Teagasc assistance, will run a pilot programme to closely track a number of these agreements through the year. The programme will examine all aspects of growing the crop, including:

  • site selection.
  • using the Teagasc maize agreement template to agree the price and payment structure.
  • soil sampling and matching nutrients for top yield.
  • utilising organic manures, where possible, to reduce costs.
  • The Dairygold branch network will be utilised to weigh each load before delivery. The crop will be analysed for dry matter and starch to ensure the grower is rewarded for producing a quality crop and the end user is charged a fair price for the maize.

    Dairygold are also looking into utilising the co-op structure to help farmers in the pilot programme, with a view to allay fears of non-payment or non-delivery by both parties.

    Teagasc advisors will assist the efforts of all agricultural merchants matching farmers for forage needs in the coming days. The Teagasc Maize Guide contains an inter-farm trading template which can be used as a guide to base an agreement for the purchase of maize or other crops. This is being further developed with additional information and safeguards for all parties. Farmers should ask their local Teagasc advisor for the updated template.

    Farmers are also advised to contact their local Teagasc advisor in the next few days, if you are interested in growing, or purchasing, forages (maize, beet, wholecrop cereals etc) for this year and they will do their best to match people locally.

    Read more

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    How to apply for fodder