The View from Northern Ireland: As ground conditions start to deteriorate on beef farms and cattle are housed for the winter feeding period, it is an ideal time to assess how much winter fodder is available on farm.

George Stewart runs a mixed beef, sheep, cereal and potato farm at Ballyquin on the outskirts of Limavady. Like most beef farmers, George experienced tight fodder supplies during spring 2013.

In an attempt to ensure adequate fodder reserves were built up for his herd of 160 beef cattle this winter, George increased his 2013 silage area by 15% to 80 acres. All silage on the farm is harvested in a two-cut system from new grass leys which form part of the arable rotation.

The first cut of silage was taken 26 June, 10 days later than usual, and yielded a disappointing 7t/acre. However, as a result of the excellent summer growing conditions, second cut yields were higher at approx. 9t/acre. In addition to the 660t pit silage now in store, 15t additional silage has been harvested as round bales.

George Stewart’s beef cattle will receive a winter diet consisting of silage, potatoes, straw and concentrate beef blend. It is planned to include silage in the cattle diet at a rate of approx. 20kg/head/day. At this feed level the farm has enough silage in store to feed its cattle for up to 210 days if necessary.

Silage will be analysed shortly to determine its feed characteristics, quality and the level of meal concentrate feeding required to supplement the diet. Silage quality on George’s farm is expected to be slightly lower than usual considering the poor spring growth conditions and later cutting date, but like most farms George’s main priority for 2013 was to ensure a sufficient quantity of fodder is available throughout the winter and this has been achieved.

If you require help to calculate how much winter fodder is available on your farm, or receive feeding advice, please contact your local Beef & Sheep Development Adviser by telephoning 0300 200 7843.

By Allister Calvin, Beef and Sheep Development Adviser, Limavady