17 August 2001

Buying in forage could be

a costly business…

Many winter feeding plans have been thrown into confusion

by the foot-and-mouth crisis. This special, edited by

Hannah Velten, looks at strategies to cope with forage

shortages and developing cost-effective rations. Jeremy

Hunt kicks off by focusing on the issue of buying in forages

By Jeremy Hunt

WITH forage stocks low on many farms, producers will be looking to buy-in feed this winter, but there is little sign that those producers with supplies of silage are prepared to sell.

Strict licensing surrounding forage movement is adding to producers reluctance to offer it for sale. But forage merchants admit that some producers are holding on to supplies in the hope of a bonanza, when winter feed demands reach a peak.

Many milk producers are already well into their current seasons silage stocks and are preparing for some hefty pay outs for bought-in silage this winter.

However, one Lancs milk producer told farmers weekly he thought rumours of a silage shortage were being exaggerated.

"Many producers whose stock was taken as dangerous contacts or as contiguous culls made more silage than they would normally have done because they had no stock to eat any grass.

"Some of these will not restock with dairy cows until next spring when new herds can be turned straight out to grass. Their silage wont be needed for this winter and should theoretically come on to the market to bolster supplies for others."

At present, Lancs forage merchant Tom Noblett of Garstang, Preston, is finding it difficult to locate supplies of silage. Forage merchants in all areas report plentiful supplies of hay at £70-£75/t. Barley straw is selling for about £45-£50/t for mini-Heston bales, but some straw has been making considerably more and looks likely to get more expensive as the winter progresses.

Cheshire-based independent dairy nutritionist Paul Findley, is planning clients winter forage requirements carefully to avoid a New Year panic to supplement dwindling stocks.

"Silage quality has been high in most areas this season, but first and second cuts have been light. Straw is worth considering to bulk-up high quality ensiled grass. However, it has been fetching up to £70/t and it is unlikely to get any cheaper.

"Avoid getting into a hand to mouth situation with forage this winter because if theres a hiccup on nutrition any fall in yield will be hard to put right and could reduce the next lactations yields.

"Plan ahead and bite the bullet on straw. It could be trading for silly money by January," warns Mr Findley.

But producers should check with DEFRA before considering buying or selling any forages as permission for movement will be based on individual circumstances.

DEFRA guidance notes state that on premises where animals have been slaughtered as dangerous contacts or as contiguous culls, producers may apply to their local divisional vet manager for a licence to move big bale silage.

However, the licence will be subject to strict conditions. DEFRA states that movement will be limited to big bales made before Dec 31, 2000 and restricted to movement to nearby farms in the same Protection Zone.

DEFRA also states that harvested crops – including hay and silage – may be moved from Form D farms with a licence from the DVM. The movement of crops from off-lying land to the restricted premises may need also to be licensed.

Farms under Form A restriction will generally not be allowed to move hay and silage off the premises until the Form A has been lifted. Producers wishing to move harvested crops within Form A premises should apply for a licence but again, strict conditions apply. &#42

FORAGE MOVEMENTS

&#8226 Possible silage shortages.

Price of straw high.

Strict movement conditions.

FORAGE MOVEMENTS

&#8226 Possible silage shortages.

&#8226 Price of straw high.

&#8226 Strict movement conditions.