Patrick Kavanagh famously wrote in The Epic: “I have lived in important places, times when great events were decided.”
The poem revolves around a local dispute, but also refers to “the hardship of Munich” or the history of the Second World War.
We, too, live in times when major events have impacted not just agriculture but every aspect of our lives. The transition from a global pandemic to war in one of the world’s premier growing regions has sent shockwaves through the global agricultural supply chain.
I’ve always been concerned about our dependence here on imported feed.
While our livestock has increased slightly over the past decade, our arable land has decreased, which has increased our dependence on imported feed, including corn kernels and their derivatives from the Black Sea region.
Low-energy feeds such as soy hulls, palm kernel and wheat feeds have become essential components of many ruminant feed mixes, displacing locally grown grains and proteins.
The current global situation is keeping us hostage to luck when it comes to the availability and price of these imported feeds.
There is an urgent need to reconsider the concentrate feeding of Irish farm animals.
The Minister has introduced some welcome short-term measures but it remains to be seen what impact they will have on meeting the national feed needs.
All livestock categories have specific requirements for concentrate feeding at different stages of their life cycle, which are determined by the type, quantity and quality of the feed; age of the animal; breed; Sex; and production goals.
Silage quality should take precedence over silage quantity. Moving forward from your traditional date by even a few days can significantly improve quality and reduce concentrate needs during the winter months.
While most forage corn plants are now seeded, there is still a window of opportunity to plant a corn plant. The advice from suppliers is to plant an early maturing variety at this stage of the season.
The choice of using compostable film or growing it outdoors will determine yield, quality and how early the crop can be harvested.
The yield potential for maize crops sown in early May is still quite good at 12-13 tDM/ha.
The optimal use of cattle manure and/or farmyard manure can significantly reduce the expenditure on artificial fertilizers.
This week several customers took their first cut of silage before manuring, plowing and planting corn on the same ground.
The early cutting date will reduce silage yield, but the corn harvest will make it a highly productive plot of land in terms of dry matter output and total energy input produced.
Summer cereal crops were sown and established under almost ideal conditions in April.
Even though it’s getting late now, there’s still an option to seed a cereal crop, especially if you want it to be produced as a whole plant rather than a combine.
Harvesting cereal whole plants at too early a stage of maturity results in lower DM and energy yield.
Getting the crop closer to full maturity and harvesting it as a high TS whole crop will provide a substitute for forage and concentrates.
Additives can preserve and enhance this type of feed.
As with all crops, the cost of growing fodder beet has increased significantly. Anecdotally, it seems that the beet sown area has decreased this spring.
People who normally buy turnips for feed should speak to their grower/supplier about winter availability and prices.
Sugar feed sources have risen sharply in price, so even at a higher cost, beets could still offer good value for money.
The performance and carcass improvement achieved by feeding beet is hard to beat.
Gerry Giggins is an animal nutritionist based in Co Louth
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/beef/beef-advice/gerry-giggins-why-it-pays-to-grow-your-own-forage-crops-even-if-you-only-start-now-41616519.html Gerry Giggins: Why it pays to grow your own forage crops – even if you’re just starting out now