Essential checklist as this year’s second cut of silage arrives early

It may only be the middle of July, but plans for winter feeding are being put in place. Much of the second cut silage will be saved over the coming weeks.

As well as getting sufficient feed for the winter, time must be spent getting the yard and sheds ready for housing. Make a list of repairs that need to be carried out and get started.

Continuing to gather feed supplies

While a lot of second cut grass silage has to be saved over the coming weeks, you should be soon in a position to construct your winter forage/feed budget.

While an amount of third cut and bales will still be made, the vast majority of winter forage will be ready once second cuts finish. The cereal harvest is not far away and hopefully the weather will be kind.

The price of grain off the combine looks like being excellent value for livestock farmers and, if at all possible, it should be traded farm-to-farm to keep animal production/feed costs down.

Native barley, wheat and oats are exceptionally high in starch and energy and when preserved and balanced well will help to improve animal performance and reduce costs greatly. If you have the facility to store grain for the winter, now is the time to make plans.

The maize silage crops in general look excellent all over the country, particularly if they were sown under plastic. Beet crops look like returning massive yields this year and will also provide excellent energy to finish stock this winter.

Getting thrive and growth from grass

Grass continues to grow fairly well around the country and is providing excellent feed value at present.

All stock is performing really well on properly-managed grass. Some grass is however quite stressed after recent rain and cold. Keep grass growing well with sufficient fertiliser application as it will soon be time to begin banking grass.

Animals intended for finishing off on grass over the coming weeks should be supplemented with a low protein concentrate to get the required weight gain and fat cover at slaughter. Late-born, bucket-reared calves should also continue to be supplemented at this stage in order to maintain growth rates before housing.

Parasite Control

Many dairy farms I have visited over the last week have seen a significant response to dosing for worms.

On some farms I have observed all groups of cattle coughing, including calves, replacement heifers and milking cows. Some of this is down to not dosing often enough or under dosing at low rates.

It is easier for a dairy producer to identify a response to dosing as it can be measured in the milk tank on a daily basis. However, in a beef farm measurement is much more difficult, if regular weighing is not being carried out.

Regular dosing of grazing stock is critical in order to control parasites and keep growth rates on target.

Increased stocking rates have also contributed to the parasite burden on many farms.

Stocking up on Straw

Straw is as an excellent roughage source for cattle as it promotes better rumen function than any other forage source. Calves certainly perform significantly better when fed straw as it doesn’t give them “pot bellies”, like those fed hay.

Wheaten, Barley, Oaten and Rape straw are all excellent sources of fibre and will all be fed this winter on many farms to supplement grass silage. One issue which pops up every year is the variation in the weight of bales. Before you buy bales get an approximate weight to see what you are getting for your money.

Compare the options available to you and make your purchasing decision based on the lowest cost per tonne of straw according to bale weight. If you have capacity to store straw it is best value straight from the field.


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