Extreme weather creates forage challenges

Extreme weather has created forage challenges across the UK.  Aly Balsom  spoke to producers at Livestock 2012, held on 4 and 5 September 2012, about the effect on their forage.

John Riley, Cheshire

260 cows, 8,000 litres/cow/year

“The poor weather will have cost us about £35,000 this year. We had used all our forage stocks by March and were expecting to graze good-quality grass in June/July, but we had to bring the herd in.

“We had to buy 700t of grass silage, as well as extra straw and bedding. The workload also increased, as we had to calve 117 inside instead of out. All in all, cows were in for six weeks solid and in and out a lot before this.”

John Porter, Northern Ireland

150 Jerseys, 6,000 litres/cow/year

“We have not seen the same kind of grass growth this year as we normally would. We had to open up second cut straight away to buffer feed. Usually we have a bit left over from the previous year, but the long winter meant we had none.

“We should be OK, but there are a lot more worse off in Northern Ireland. Some haven’t got second cut off yet (5 September) and they’ve fed all of first cut already.”

Kevin Beaty, Cumbria

280 Jerseys, 6,000 litres/cow/year

“Variable grass growth has been the biggest problem. June was our worst month as it was wet and cold and we were short of grass from June to July.

“We’ve had to make dynamic decisions and keeping good records and walking the farm regularly has been key. If we weren’t monitoring grass growth so closely, we could have seen problems.”

Tom Mitchell, Wiltshire

150 Friesian-cross herd, 7,000 litres/ cow/year

“Grazing has been a challenge this year, with low dry matter and low-energy grass. Keeping cow condition has also been difficult. We have had to feed 4kg of concentrate alongside low dry matter grass – rather than the usual 2kg – to keep condition.

“Overall, we’ve had plenty of grass silage, but quality has been low. We aim for 5,000 litres from forage, but this year it is more likely to be 4,000-4,500 litres. And we would have fed 1t of concentrate a head versus 600kg, at 20p/kg.”

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