Getting the basics of harvesting right

The type of machinery used for harvesting makes little difference to quality, if the basic requirements are adhered to.

Modern precision chop harvesters have huge output, but are very heavy in fuel.

Trials in Northern Ireland showed pick-up wagons use only half the amount of fuel of the precision chop machines.

The vast improvement in the quality of pick-up wagons, and the rising price of fuel, will influence the type of machinery for silage harvesting in future.

Researchers estimate a saving of €5-€8 per acre on fuel charges with the wagon.

There is no advantage in short chopped silage.

A recent study by Teagasc indicated that a good quality crop of first cut pit silage is about 20% cheaper than bales. In terms of digestible dry matter, it costs only about half that of stemmy light crops of pit silage. Bales are generally cheaper than pit silage for late and light crops.

Some of the more modern mowers facilitate wilting fairly well. For faster, better wilting, there is now an increased range of specialised machines available.


Wilting has many advantages where harvesting facilities and weather allow. It results in less material to be handled, less effluent, less requirement for additive, and higher intakes and better animal performance next winter. Wilting from 18% dry matter to 25%-27% reduces the amount of fresh material from 13 to 8.5 tonnes per acre, and this would result in a massive saving at harvesting and feeding out.

However, in order to get the advantages of wilting, grass should be in light rows and tedded frequently, for a very quick wilt in 24 hours. Ideally grass should be scattered out immediately after cutting, while the little holes in the leaves through which moisture escapes, are open. Weather conditions and contractor availability situation will prevent wilting in many cases.


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