Livestock farmers across the UK are being urged to plan ahead to ensure they have enough forage and bedding for the winter.
Forage Aid – a charity which supports livestock farmers affected by an extreme weather event by providing forage and/or bedding to those in need – said it had received reports of shorter stocks of straw in livestock areas following the cold, wet spring.
The charity’s founder and chairman, Andrew Ward MBE, said its trustees had been monitoring forage and bedding stocks in their own areas.
“Whilst 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,” said Mr Ward.
“Our experience shows that these conditions normally lead to problems later in the year.”
Former NFU England and Wales president and Forage Aid trustee, Meurig Raymond, said droughts, wet weather and cold spells in the past few years had made it challenging for livestock farmers to build forage and bedding stocks.
He said the charity had found it increasingly difficult to encourage donations of forage during this period, and in some instances it had been forced to purchase forage and straw rather than rely on donations.
Mr Raymond: “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.
“We are also urging farmers to start planning straw purchases for the winter ahead as we see this as a real pinch point. Get in touch with y our merchant early and start discussing how you can get supplies onto the farm.”
As well as encouraging livestock farmers to plan ahead, Forage Aid is urging arable farmers to bale, rather than chop, straw to ensure there are enough supplies for the winter.
Charity trustee Ed Ford – an arable farmer from Essex – said: “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.”
The Forage Aid plea comes on the back of a water scarcity warning and plea for farmers to irrigate responsibly from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
Farming union NFU Scotland (NFUS) said the recent extreme dry weather and thunderstorms were creating challenges for farmers and crofters, with some livestock producers being forced to feed silage to top up grazing.