Beef and sheep farmers should start planning now to minimise the legacy this late spring has left for next winter.
That is the message from SAC specialists attending the
Beef Expo 2010 event at Hexham. Gavin Hill and Dr. Basil Lowman fear the cold late spring, which depressed grass production, will affect the performance of cows and ewes. They also believe that without proper planning farmers could face fertility and fodder problems next winter.
According to Dr Basil Lowman the long winter and slow spring has been a double whammy for livestock.
“Many were leaner than normal after a prolonged period on winter rations and faced bare pastures when they were eventually turned out. Normally you would expect stock to put on weight at this time of year, but just now some will be lucky to maintain their weight.”
Basil believes it will be harder to finish cattle off grass this year and suggests it may be sensible to utilise cheap barley and finish suitable animals inside over the summer.
Senior SAC Beef Specialist Gavin Hill is also anxious about the feed stocks available next winter, especially as, because of the snow, most farmers have used up any extra they had.
“They should take the first cut as normal,” he says “There may not be the bulk but quality will be good. It is important not to compromise the second cut. And in some areas it may be possible to bulk up silage with potatoes, draff or even whole crop cereals.”
However, like his colleague, Gavin Hill reminds producers that fodder production should not be at the expense of grazing for breeding stock. He believes there is no profit in having pits full of silage this autumn, but high numbers of barren cows or ewes. Likewise while calves and lambs look well just now, fed on their mother’s milk, a shortage of grass could soon set them back, unless care is taken.
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