Dr. Siobhan Kavanagh, Nutrition Specialist with Teagasc issued the following advice to farmers as Silage Stocks Tightening.
The recent heavy rainfall has meant that grazing conditions are very difficult on many farms, very little fertiliser has been spread and a lot of stock are still fully housed. Consequently, silage stocks are starting to tighten on many farms. Farmers are encouraged to:
1. Walk the farm and target the driest fields for grazing first. Having 2/3 of the grass grazed by St. Patricks Day or slightly later may be more difficult to achieve this year this year. Graze the medium cover fields (approx. 800-1,000 kg DM/ha) first to allow a greater area to regrow from early to mid-March. Then graze the heaviest third of the farm next. Grass continued to grow over the winter on many farms this year so average farm cover is higher than usual. When grazing conditions improve, such covers will allow you to turn more stock than usual out to grass. Should conditions continue to be difficult on your farm use on-off grazing to get grass grazed.
2. If you are short of silage, it is important to act now, and not wait until you have run out of silage before taking action. Assess current fodder stocks. Be realistic about turnout date and allow an additional buffer of 2-3 weeks.
a. Use meals and straw/hay to stretch silage. Feeding an additional 2-3 kg of meals per day from now will save 30-40% on silage demand, provided access to the silage is restricted.
b. Keep the silage for the cows post-calving. These animals cannot be restricted on silage or straw. In herds where milk quota is an issue, maintain energy intake and keep a close eye on cow condition.
c. Put late calving dry cows on restricted silage plus straw plus meals (assuming 3 kg straw plus 2 kg meals). Avoid making big changes to cow diet in the 3 weeks before calving. Keep a close eye on cow condition – cows in poor condition cannot be restricted in late pregnancy.
d. Consider ad lib concentrates plus minimum roughage for ewes pre-lambing and for finishing stock.
3. Have fertiliser in the yard ready to spread as conditions dry up. The target fertiliser N application rate for March is 23-40 units N/acre (28-49 kg N/ha). Apply 40 units at stocking rates of >1.6 Lu/ha; 23 units/ac at stocking rates of <1.4 LU/ha and 30 units/ac at stocking rates in between. Urea is a third cheaper and safer to use in March than CAN on practically all soil types. None are safe to use on waterlogged ground.
4. Slurry application in conditions that cause either soil damage from traffic or potential losses of slurry to waters should be avoided.
a. Where tanks are full and storage capacity is limited, only apply slurry on drier and flatter fields where the potential risk of waterlogging and/or run-off is minimised. The required set back distances from watercourses must also be observed when applying slurry. Where only a limited amount of land will permit application, aim to apply only enough slurry to allow capacity for the next 2-3 weeks. Applying more dilute slurry (for example by taking water from unagitated tanks) may also reduce the risk of nutrient losses.
b. Moving slurry to another farm should be considered where tanks are full and no fields will permit any spreading. Records of slurry movements must be kept and submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine before the end of year under the requirements of the Nitrates Regulations. Note that slurry movements can also impact on compliance with the 170 kg/ha stocking rate limit on receiving farms