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Livestock farmers are being urged to plan their winter feed and bedding strategy following reports of low straw stocks in some areas. Plan winter feed and bedding strategy sooner not later

Livestock farmers are being urged to plan their winter feed and bedding strategy following reports of low straw stocks in some areas.

Although forage yields appear to be decent, the Forage Aid charity says a reduction in baling and the cold wet spring could limit straw sales and push up prices – leading to problems later in the year.

Forage Aid founder and chairman Andrew Ward said: “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.”

Difficult position

Livestock farmers had found it challenging to build forage and bedding stocks over the last few years, said Mr Ward. Droughts, wet weather and cold spells had all challenged the ability to grow and conserve forage.

Forage Aid has found it increasingly difficult to encourage donations of forage. In some cases, the charity has found itself in a position of having to purchase forage and straw rather than rely on donations.

Livestock farmers who hadn’t yet done so should start planning for winter and secure enough forage to see them through to next spring. Farmers should also start planning straw purchases for the winter ahead.

Forage aid trustee and Essex farmer Ed Ford put out a rallying call to his fellow arable farmers about baling straw for livestock farms and encourage more collaboration between the two 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.”

Extreme weather

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

Over the years, Forage Aid has helped many farmers following extreme weather events. The most challenging years have been those where drought has been the problem – although the charity has also been called upon during harsh winters.

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, said Mr Ward. Planning for the event becomes critical at times like these, he added.