Agriculture Victoria Dairy Services Officer Greg O’Brien continues his advice on how to tackle spring.

Grain or hay may be cheapest?
With cereal grain selling for about $250 per tonne (depending on locality), it may compare favourably with nitrogen-boosted silage.
Grain contains about 10 per cent moisture so $250 per tonne fresh weight is about $275 per tonne of dry matter.
Grain is about 12.5 MJ metabolisable energy (ME).
With average quality silage being about 10.5 MJ ME of energy it could cost almost 20 per cent more for grain than fodder if it is energy that is required.
Using the examples above, the cost of nitrogen boosted silage is about the same as the cost as cereal grain.
Currently, hay is also relatively cheap (although it needs to be good quality, 10 ME plus, if it is being feed to milkers or young stock plus wastage needs to be factored in).
A good hay season may see the hay price remain low.
There are three things to highlight here.
First, it is important to do the numbers for the situation on a “feed consumed” basis.
Secondly, there is a risk around each of the options (what price will grain/hay be when I need it?), what response to nitrogen will I get, what quality silage will I make and what wastage?
Thirdly, is it only energy that is needed?
For example, there are times of the year on most farms when pasture is in short supply and it is high quality fibre or perhaps protein that is needed to balance the ration.

Cash flow an issue?
Many farmers are facing cash flow challenges.
For those farmers, it may be worth considering the option of not boosting spring pasture as much as normal (reducing fertiliser and fodder conservation costs).
With less silage harvested, feed supplements would need to be purchased later in the season as feed gaps arise and cash flow is better.
It might just be the year where purchased feed is not more expensive than generating extra home grown silage or hay.
As always, do he sums and assess the risks.

Where irrigation water supply is potentially limited, farmers are focusing on watering pastures early in the spring where the response to water is at its best.
If water runs out, at least farmers will have made the most of what they had available.
For those who are in the position of being able to purchase water, the decision will be more an economic one.
Is purchasing water to grow extra feed a better option than purchasing feed needs?

Further into spring the water and the feed price situation will become clearer. Some farmers may prefer to wait and see what happens with water availability and its price.
Others might have a water price in mind and purchase their water needs when they hit their target price.
Others may see the purchased-feed market as a preferred option for filling feed gaps or they may consider a mix of purchased water and feed.

Bottom line
– Make the most of whatever situations arise this season.
– As there is nothing certain about the seasonal forecast, a risk management approach is needed.
– Know the risks and level of exposure to each. The greater the exposure to a risk, the more emphasis needs to be placed on mitigating that risk. Take a planned approach.
– Is this the season for to conserve a lot of fodder (maybe put a pit of silage away for the next tough year)?
– Maybe it is a matter of having a trigger point to enter the feed and/or water market later in the season?
– If spring fails, maybe a trigger point for reducing feed demand needs to be in the plans, e.g. reducing stock numbers. It is not a good idea to have more mouths than can be fed because this will reduce total milk production.
– A financial budget and feed budget will help with decision making.

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