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Planning a winter feed budget: What farmers need to know

The dry summer means having a good understanding of feed supply – and the demand of stock is more important than ever for this autumn and winter.

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Planning a winter feed budget: What farmers need to know

Dr Liz Genever, AHDB senior scientist, says: “A feed budget is a way of predicting what may happen and monitoring to see if things turn out as planned. It relies on knowing how much dry matter (DM) livestock need per day.

 

“At this stage, we are talking total dry matter rather than specific rations. Once we have an understanding of surpluses or deficits, we can refine requirements.”


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Table 1 shows the amount of DM which needs to be allocated to stock based on their performance or physiological stage. Intake is driven by weight, so knowing the average weight of stock is important.

 

For example, for a 65kg ewe being allocated 1.5 per cent of her bodyweight, this would mean around 1kg DM per day.

 

Dr Genever says: “Once you know the requirement of different classes of stock, you can work out the total daily demand (see table 2).

 

“This can be converted into daily demand per hectare by dividing the group daily requirement per day (kg/DM) by the area available for grazing (ha).”

The demand per hectare can be used with grass growth information to identify the surplus or deficit.

 

“If demand per hectare was 25kg DM, and if grass growth was 15kg DM per day, the average pasture cover would be reducing by 10kg DM per day,” explains Liz.

 

“The decision would be about how to fill that feed gap of 10kg DM per day, or whether the reduction in pasture cover is acceptable. It is likely it would have been acceptable earlier in the season, but now additional supplements should be used to fill that gap so grass can recover.”

 

The daily demand calculation can be built up to cover more stock and get a demand for the next few months. A feed budget planner is available on the AHDB Beef & Lamb website and can be used to build a feed budget.

 

It is also important to calculate what is currently being stored.

 

Dr Genever says: “This is generally known in fresh weight, but the DM needs to be calculated to work out stock need. For example, 100,000 tonnes of fresh weight silage at 20 per cent is 40,000t DM and at 25 per cent is 50,000t DM.”

What are the options for feeding?

 

A SELECTION of feeds which can be used as forage extender or to supplement grazed grass can be seen below.

 

It provides details on approximate cost per fresh weight tonne and the standard dry matter, which can be used to calculate pence per kg of dry matter. The nutrient costs included are corrected for dry matter and can be used to compare feeds.

 

Other options, for example, fodder beet, will become available as this season’s crops get lifted or harvested.

 

Dr Genever advises talking to a nutritional adviser about providing a balanced ration to meet the requirements of your stock.

 

“Check prices in newspapers, feed company newsletters and with merchants,” she says. “They may change depending on haulage and location from ports.”

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