Performance could be compromised unless livestock farmers plan feed levels carefully following this summer's wet weather.

That's the warning from SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College. The poor weather has caused farms to house stock earlier than anticipated and that, consequently, the cost of forage will increase.

Many areas of the country have not made the levels and quality of forage required, especially with second cut silages. As a result farmers are facing face increased costs for the winter, for example straw which is already at a high price when delivered.

The obvious consequence is a severe shortage of forage to overwinter stock but, equally important, is the impact this has had on the performance of animals this summer. With fields still “shut up” for conservation there have been no aftermaths for stock to graze this autumn. As a result, grass intake over recent months has been severely restricted, all of which will have had a direct impact on performance, including growth rates, fertility or cow/ewe condition.

In this situation SAC Consulting is offering the following advice:

- Sell all lambs/calves store. To maximise sale weights start creep feeding as soon as possible.

- Check cow/ewe condition now and if they are lean wean as soon as possible but ensure calves/lambs have been on creep feed for at least while weeks before weaning.

- Pregnancy diagnose all cows now and cull all barren animals before prices begin to fall with the autumn glut.

- Be particularly hard when drawing ewes to go to the tup this autumn. With feed limited/expensive this winter keep only the fittest ewes.

- Investigate opportunities for away wintering which will usually be cheaper than buying feed into remote areas.

- Consider that concentrates are cheaper per unit of energy/protein to transport than roughage.

- Consider strip grazing possible silage ground rather than trying to make very poor quality silage in wet conditions. Use a back fence to minimise poaching.

- If required, supplement the standing grass with purchased concentrate.

- If ground conditions allow, consider mowing two or three swaths for the next few days, placing an electric fence in the middle of each swath to act as a feed barrier. This will minimise wastage, leave a uniform mown sward to regrow ready for the spring and reduce poaching.

- Consider a like approach, similar to all grass wintering, for the ewes.