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Rebuilding Silage Stocks - The Importance of Planning Ahead

Many farmers will have experienced the knock-on affects from last years turbulent weather. Certainly, many of our clients have found themselves with a reduced level of silage carry over compared to other years.

This puts farmers in a precarious position, with little insurance should there be another period of extreme weather this year. Therefore, it is important that farmers plan ahead whilst looking to re-build silage stocks for the winter without compromising on quality. As the majority of the farmers across the South-West are turning their attention towards 2023 1st cut, it is great to see so many of our clients are still emphasising quality rather than focussing on quantity to rebuild stocks.

But whilst improving the quality of silage can result in improvements of milk from forage and a reduction in the quantity of concentrate required, it is also important to ensure that this forage is fed to animals that can make the best use of it.

Therefore, it is important to consider a number of factors ahead of housing this winter, including:

  • How many beef animals will be on the farm this winter? How profitable is this enterprise?

  • What number of dairy replacements will be kept? Do you plan to bring all of them into the herd?

  • How strict is your culling plan? Are there animals in the herd that might not be justifying their place?

Once you have an idea of stocking rates this winter, you can compare this requirement to your current stocks (whilst ensuring you replace the buffer of grass silage lost this winter). For example, housing a 200 head dairy herd for 6 months of the year eating roughly 15kg (DM) of forage at 30% DM will equate to 1,830T of silage.

If it looks unlikely that you will have enough conserved forage to sustain these animals over the winter, then now might be the time to consider altering numbers to something more sustainable. This could include thinning beef numbers before the winter, which could also provide more land for a later cut of silage to help improve silage stocks.

Another consideration is the breakeven yield within the herd. Calculating this value will help ensure that cull animals are removed from the herd at the best possible time, balancing forage use with increased cull value from a bigger animal. This calculation will also make sure that forage and other assets will be used in the animals that can make the best use of them.

In order to calculate the breakeven yield, we first need to calculate the following:

  • Feed costs (concentrate & forage).

  • Electric cost.

  • Vet & Med.

Looking at these figures allow us to calculate the marginal cost of keeping one less cow. Other costs such as youngstock feed, bedding or labour costs are unlikely to be changed significantly if one cow is removed. These costs can be calculated on a per animal basis over 12 months and then divided to a cost/day. We can then calculate the breakeven yield required to cover these costs.

For assistance in forage budgeting, then please get in touch!

Charlie Davies

07904 601104

Laura Cureton

07399 117257

Sam Kelly

07777 696080

Office 01454 614624


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