Concentrate feed sales are running 20% ahead of last year, as dairy farmers have ramped up ration usage to compensate for poor grass growth.

Farmers are feeding 4-5kg of ration per day in the parlour at the moment, as they seek to fill the nutrition gap left by the lag in grass growth.

This process is racking up additional feed costs of 2.2-3c/l and eroding margins on farms, Joe Patton of Teagasc has stated.

By year-end, these costs could total €13,000-€18,000 for the average 100-cow dairy herd with a 600,000l to 650,000l supply base.

While compounders would not quantify the lift in sales, they admitted that farmer demand for June was running 20-25% ahead of last year. May sales were around 15% up on 2023 figures.

The jump in feed usage is a consequence of poor grass growth. PastureBase Ireland figures show that grass growth is running 0.8tDM back, on average. Tight grass supplies have forced many farmers to graze silage ground and feed silage bales harvested earlier this year.

“Many dairy farmers are pushing a feed deficit in front of them,” Patton claimed.

“Overall grass growth is back on average by 1t/ha by the end of June. Farmers are doing well to keep grass in front of cows on a week-to-week basis, but at some stage any deficits in winter feed will have to be squared off,” he said.

In the absence of a good back-end to the year, Patton predicted that additional feed requirement will equate to around 0.5t/cow and cost an extra €130 to €180/cow.

This will impact the overall milk productions costs, with the feed element rising from 5.5-6c/l to 8-8.5c/l.

Patton warned of “serious potential cashflow implications” for farmers who have to purchase significant quantities of additional feed this autumn and winter.

He urged farmers to allow for these feed purchases in their cash projections for the back-end, and to identify where they can source forage in good time. Read more on pages 34-35.