Weather warning over winter supply of livestock feed

Livestock farmers around the United Kingdom are being urged to start forward planning how they can manage and build forage and bedding stocks ahead of winter following the cold, wet spring of 2021.

Forage Aid founder, Andrew Ward MBE
Forage Aid founder, Andrew Ward MBE

Issuing the plea, Forage Aid, the charity which helps livestock farmers beset by weather problems, said it had been receiving reports of shorter stocks of straw in livestock areas – despite the fact that forage yields seemed to be holding up after the poor start to the spring.

‘Our Trustees have been monitoring forage and bedding stocks in their own area,” said the organisation’s founder and chairman, Lincolnshire farmer, Andrew Ward MBE.

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“While the results are anecdotal, we do have growing evidence that forage stocks are looking better than expected, however stocks of straw are low and prices are rising. Our experience shows that these conditions normally lead to problems later in the year.”

He said that livestock producers had found it challenging to build up forage and bedding stocks over the last few years as droughts, wet weather and cold spells had all challenged the ability to grow and conserve forage.

Ward added that Forage Aid had found it increasingly difficult to encourage donations of forage, and where Trustees have agreed to support an application for support the charity has found itself having to purchase forage and straw rather than relying on donations.

‘We are encouraging livestock farmers to start planning for winter 2021/22 and how they can conserve enough forage to see them through to next spring.”

But he warned livestock keepers should also start planning straw purchases for the winter ahead as he saw this a ‘real pinch point’.

“Get in touch with your merchant early and start discussing how you can get supplies onto the farm,” added Meurig Raymond, Forage Aid Trustee and former president of the English NFU.

And a rallying call was also put out to arable farmers about baling straw for livestock farms along with a call for more collaboration between the sectors,

“With arable crop prices looking healthy it might be an easier decision not to bale straw. However we would be grateful if all arable farmers considered baling some straw and get it into the system to ensure that our livestock areas have good access to bedding materials across the winter.”

Early engagement by arable and livestock farmers with their local straw merchants will enable all parties to plan for winter with stocks being matched up with buyers early in the season.

Raymond said that over the years Forage Aid had helped many farmers following extreme weather events - and the most challenging years had been those where drought ha been the problem.

“Sourcing surplus forage and bedding for donation in a tough weather year is exceptionally difficult and makes it much harder to help farmers in need. Planning for the event becomes critical at times like these.

“Please help yourself and the industry by planning ahead and building a resilience plan for your farm business,” he advised.

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