Local farmers received some winter fodder advice from ANM recently.
An open meeting, ‘Winter Fodder – Dealing with a Shortage’ was held on Friday, August 17 at Thainstone Centre and farmers heard about different strategies to help with winter fodder budgeting, managing stock numbers, and alternative fodder and bedding options.
Farm Profit Programme advisors Declan Marren and Robert Gilchrist, along with focus farmers Scott Duguid, Andrew Biffen and Jim Gammie shared their on-farm successes and strategies.
John Gregor, Executive Director at ANM Group and Chairman of the event, said: “We are pleased with the success of this event and strong attendance from the farming community. The Farm Profit Programme advisors and focus farmers did an excellent job sharing their expertise and provided a wide range of practical steps available to farmers as they plan for the winter ahead. It is incredible how a number of small changes can make a significant difference to the fodder challenge.
“ANM is committed to supporting our members and more information is available by contacting our Farm Profit Programme advisors or by getting involved in a focus group.”
At the outset, farmers were urged to create a winter fodder plan by determining current levels of fodder supplies, how many animals they need to feed, and the extra fodder required.
To reduce fodder and increase commercial productivity, Mr Gilchrist advised to implement a strict bulling period, scan for pregnant cows 40 days later, and cull the poor performing, non-pregnant cows to achieve 90-100% fertility rate in the herd. This will ensure the calving interval is shorter for next spring and reduce the number of animals on the farm this winter.
By identifying non-pregnant cows earlier, they can be removed from the system before the expensive winter period. The next decision to make is whether or not it is worth feeding them prior to the sale. Where grass and fodder reserves are extremely tight, selling will be the best option. Where younger, easier fleshed cows are scanned not in-calf and are thin, it may be worth feeding them for a short period to increase the sale value. Feeding 5kg concentrates at grass for five weeks pre-sale will cost £35 but has the potential to increase cow weight by 52kg and the overall value of the cow by over £130 per cow.
Next, weaning calves early in October will help maintain cows’ weight leading up to winter, as cows utilise this condition throughout winter before the calving period begins. Supplementing growing calves instead of cows will realise a better conversion of around 4kg of concentrate to 1kg of live weight gain, which is the preferred option rather than trying to build up flesh in cows whose feed-to-gain efficiency will be poorer.
Mr Marren reported that there is a fantastic opportunity to increase fodder supplies as the soil temperature is currently above the seasonal average at 14°Celsius and grass is growing at the rate of 40-50kg of dry matter produced per hectare. Farmers also have the chance to optimise grass growth by blanket spreading nitrogen across the whole farm. Nitrogen can be spread right up until early September with the confidence that you will receive an economical response to the application. Applying 40kg of nitrogen per hectare will grow at least an extra 600kg of dry matter per hectare at the cost of £35 per hectare.
Alternative bedding options presented on the day included woodchip, recycled wood, sand and rushes. Once the animals are housed, one option for farmers is to replace 6kg of silage with 1kg of straw and 1kg of barley per day for one month. Over a four-week period and 63 cows, this will result in 11 tonnes less of fodder supplies used. While, focus farmer Jim Gammie reported success using woodchips over the last two years, which he is also composting for further land use.
Those interested in finding out more or getting involved in a focus group, are invited to get in touch with Declan or Robert on 01467 623 838 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by stopping by the Farm Profit Programme office located in the concourse at Thainstone Centre.