Royal Highland Show 2013: Plan now to avoid feed shortage worries

Livestock farmers need to start assessing forage stock levels on farm and planning ahead to the winter, experts are warning.

After a poor summer in 2012 and harsh winter, forage stocks levels on many farms across Scotland may be down, putting added pressure on feed availability for the coming winter.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly at the Royal Highland Show, Gavin Hill of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) said now was the time to be thinking ahead in terms of forage stocks.

“Assess forage stock levels now and don’t leave it,” he warned.

Mr Hill said some farmers could be shocked by how little forage was available even after first-cut silage was in the pits. “A lot of the dairy boys reckon first-cut silage could be down by as much as a third in Scotland, although it is looking like it will be good quality, dry stuff.”

Mr Hill advised farmers facing a winter feed shortage situation to consider different options such as looking at straw availability and cost now rather than waiting until after harvest. “Do you need to wait until after harvest to see where the straw is? There is straw available now, so now is the time to be looking and costing it out,” he said.

He also advised farmers to speak to their arable neighbours to see whether they have any wholecrop available.

“Some big and hard decisions may need to be made this year if the feed isn’t there. Harsh decisions will have to be made so all stock going through the winter are productive. That means this year more than ever, it will be important to scan and pregnancy diagnose animals so those non-productive animals can be removed,” he said.

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