Although this season’s fine weather is producing excellent hay and silage crops, a number of prudent grassland farmers are already taking steps to avoid a “fodder famine” at the end of next winter.
Last year, homegrown fodder was finished on many farms a month before cattle were turned out. The result was that additional hay and feed had to be bought in, with a consequent effect on overall profits.
About 80 per cent of Northern Ireland fodder is still made as hay, and this year’s excellent weather has produced what looks like a bumper crop. Even so, it is extremely doubtful if there is enough hay and silage in the country now to sustain stock all the way through another long winter.
Mr Don Turkington, Richardson’s technical adviser for County Antrim, points out that it is too late now for farmers to fertilise and plant a second hay crop. However fertiliser applied to the aftermath in early August will grow sufficient grass to yield a silage crop of six tons per acre by the end of September.
Even for those farmers who do not normally make silage, the production of this late crop is simple and economical. Every acre of hay aftermath fertilised at a rate of 2½ cwt of Double Strength Grassland will give a silage yield equivalent of 60 bales of hay worth £15.
The use of Double Strength Grassland also has the effect of replenishing the phosphate and potash reserves which are often depleted by a heavy cut.
If the farmer has no silage, adds Mr Turkington, then silage can be made very satisfactorily by heaping the grass onto a concrete yard, adding treacle, Kylage and Add F, and covering with a polythene sheet. This sheet should be securely weighed down with manure, old tyres, or fertiliser bags filled with sand to make a good seal. If such a silage clamp is placed convenient to the stock it can be self fed.
Already a number of farmers are preparing to fertilise their hay aftermaths to produce this late crop of silage and ensure that their fodder stocks are adequate to last through to the early spring.