Producers are being encouraged to take steps to help minimise the risk of reduced forage stocks next winter.

Wet weather across the country may result in producers turning cows out onto a larger grazing platform than previous years, eating into land that would normally have been ear-marked for silage.

While this may help solve the immediate problem, farmers should be aware that this could lead to potential forage shortages next winter.

Rob Fowkes, nutritional advisor at QLF suggests a two-pronged approach to help alleviate the problem.

“Firstly, if young stock are yet to be turned out, I’d recommend keeping them in if possible so that you can shut up this extra grass for silage. However, if you are keeping young stock in, reassess and alter the ration to help stretch-out the forage available.

“Where possible, producers need to try and conserve current forage stocks so they can be rolled over into next year if required. One way of doing this is to replace a proportion of the forage in the ration with straw. However, to avoid a drop in intake and subsequently performance, this needs to be managed carefully.

If cows are out at grass, an option is to restrict the amount of time they are out, however an adequately balanced buffer feed will need to be provided to ensure nutritional requirements are still met.

Mr Fowkes said: “For cows, you can increase the amount of straw in the diet to 3kg and/or switch to a lower quality forage by adding molasses to the diet.

“As with the young stock ration, if feeding straw or poorer quality forage, it will be critical to include something palatable in the ration to maintain feed intake, so I would also advise the inclusion of TMR30.

“The NDF levels in grass are currently low due to fast growth, meaning it will pass through the rumen rapidly. Providing a buffer ration with the inclusion of straw and molasses, will slow down the rate of passage, increasing the time available for nutrients to be absorbed.

“This will stabilise the availability of sugar and protein from the grass, allowing it to be used by the cow more efficiently, ultimately leading to increased performance.”