Winter feeding and animal health– Know Your Situation

By Senan White, CAFRE Beef and Sheep Development Adviser, Armagh

Whilst there were favourable grass growing conditions during the second part  of the growing season the first part wasn’t good but most farmers ended up with an adequate stock of fodder to see them through this incoming winter. Having said that, it is still necessary  to carefully plan this year’s feeding to ensure that feeding costs are kept under control and reasonable levels of stock performance are achieved.

This was the message given to a group of farmers at a recent Winter feeding and Animal health workshop organised by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Markethill, Co Armagh.
Introducing the workshop, Senan White, CAFRE, stressed the importance of producing and feeding, good quality silage as this is the  ‘platform for low cost winter feeding and animal performance’.  It was stressed that getting silage analysed should be a must, and that farmers must not assume that their silage is good quality. Animal performance may suffer as a result!
The group were then addressed by Paul Sloan, Ruminant Nutritionist from Tullyherron Farm Feeds Ltd, Mountnorris, who gave a very interesting and informative presentaion about feeding beef animals with the correct ration at the different stages in its life.  Paul highlighted the importance of grazed grass as  the best and cheapest growing ration providing that it is properly utilised.  Paul then discussed the  ingredients which could be included in various  rations and  the advantages and disadvantages of alternative feeds.
The final speaker of the evening was Jason Barley, Veterinary Research Officer from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).   Jason highlighted the importance of resolving  animal health issues  as they will impair the animals growth and performance irrespective of the quality of silage or concentrate fed.  Jason stressed  that  liver and rumen fluke are still causing major problems on many farms , despite the fact that we have experienced a  relatively dry summer.  Jason  encouraged farmers to seek professional advice from their local veterinary practitioner re the disease risks on their farm.  He suggested that it was good practice to have dung samples checked for   testfluke and worm contamination before treatment and to have mineral profiles completed using blood samples .
The workshop generated a lot of  discussion with one farmer commenting “like many  other farmers I thought I had produced good quality silage but the analysis indicated that I must feed a different concentrate ration to get the level of performance required this winter.   I am also going to get my stock out to pasture earlier next spring to make optimum use of grazed grass as the cheapest source of fodder ”.
CAFRE advisers are encouraging beef and sheep farmers to assess their fodder situation as soon as possible, as action taken now could avoid extra expense being incurred during the winter and will optimise animal performance.
If you would like to have your silage analysed, or wish to discuss your winter fodder situation, please contact your  CAFRE development adviser either at  your local DARD office or by telephoning 0300 200 7843.

From left – Billy McClelland, Potynzpass, Senan White, CAFRE, John Hill, Markethill, and Alan Hamilton, Tandragee at the Winter Fodder meeting, Markethill.

Paul Sloan (left), Tullyherron Farm Feeds speaking with Colin Gray, Lisnadill.

A section of the crowd listening to Jason Barley, AFBI, discussing animal health issues.