Given the year that has just passed, the thoughts of completing a fodder budget on some farms will sound like a terrifying prospect. With storms and snowfall causing havoc for fodder supplies in the spring, farmers had planned to conserve as much feed as possible this summer. However, the recent drought had other ideas and in early parts of the country, silage crops were affected.
Bumper grass year
For the majority of the Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal BETTER farm beef challenge participants, the story was no different.
For the Grieves in Donegal, the dry conditions have led to a bumper grass growing year.
Second-cut silage was in the pit six weeks early and a third cut is already closed off – this is unheard of in other years.
Many are commenting on how grass has gotten greener and how good growth is starting to become noticeable
And while drought affected all other farms to some extent, participants in Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Leitrim, Monaghan, Cavan and Meath are now noticing excellent grass growth in recent days and weeks.
Growth struggling in the south
Further south, the problem is much greater, as growth really struggles to kick in.
In the last number of days, many are commenting on how grass has gotten greener and how good growth is starting to become noticeable.
However, it is getting late in the year and with one eye on building covers for the autumn and the other on closing ground for the spring, there is little room left for extra fodder conservation in these parts.
BETTER Farm: Fodder Update from Irish Farmers Journal on Vimeo.
Completing a fodder budget
It is with this in mind that we must look at completing a fodder budget. As mentioned, the fear of what you might learn is prohibiting many farmers from completing this task.
But, to counteract that theory, it is far better to identify and begin solving a problem now than to hit the back wall of the silage pit next December and have no plan B.
Over the last month, all BETTER farm participants have been completing and regularly updating fodder budgets for their farms with the help of their Teagasc BETTER farm advisers and their local Teagasc B&T advisers.
Few are in surplus situations. However, the vast majority are facing some level of a deficit that simply won’t be made up between now and housing.
It must also be noted that all budgets have included a four-week buffer to cater for the worst-case scenario.
Over the coming weeks, both in print and online, we will outline each participant's fodder budget, as well as outlining the steps that will be taken to fill the gap in a deficit situation.
Some farms will make bales before winter, some will purchase extra meal or sow forage crops, while a small few will be forced to sell stock.
Complete your own
Before looking at the BETTER participants’ budgets, why not complete a fodder budget of your own and give yourself the opportunity to compare and take ideas from the BETTER farm approaches.
To complete a fodder budget for your farm, use the Irish Farmers Journal fodder calculator here
Beef management: pneumonia, feeding cattle and Tullamore Farm walk
BETTER Farm: maximising a farm's potential with grass in Sligo