Silage quality or volume? The eternal question

Some were lucky to get first cut silage saved last week.

However, with so much unsettled weather, many have now passed their intended cutting date.

The outlook is for warmer but still wet days to come. Grass that was not grazed this spring is particularly heavy, and beginning to lodge.

Cutting date decisions

While many are still considering holding on for a heavier first cut of silage, the aim of producing quality feeding must not be ignored.

Of course, you need a full pit to get through next winter, but you also need to consider what quality you have, and its impact on animal performance.

It might be worth considering taking the first cut soon, in order to get the second cut growing as fast as possible.

It is worth looking back at what has occurred in the recent past, when making decisions about first cut silage.

Remember, anyone who delayed their first cut for bulk in 2013, until after the second week of June, ended up with a poor cut due to the drought in July.

The decision to take a first cut early may result in being able to take a third cut, should you require it. This would maximise the amount of grass ensiled per acre. You need to look at your options carefully in order to get through next winter. For many, good reserves of fodder exist from last winter, and their decisions should perhaps lean towards producing a quality cut where possible.

Quality silage is always the right silage.

Lighter cuts will always be better quality, resulting in less concentrates being required for next winter. It may seem obvious, but well preserved silage is also critical, as you can’t afford any waste. Well preserved silage does not just happen, however. Fertiliser volume and application date along with cutting time and date determine preservation every bit as much as pit management.

Grass should, where possible, never be on the ground for more than 24 hours. Over-wilting, as many have learned over the last few years, is not a good idea. Over-dry silage is next to impossible to manage in a pit.

Pit management at ensiling is critical, and needs a lot of care and attention. Filling pits too fast results in poor consolidation, and more air in the pit, causing spoilage. Pits should be sealed as soon as possible, once rolled sufficiently.

Silage Additive

Use of an additive is worth considering, particularly if you are ensiling young, leafy material.

Additives which prevent silage from heating at feed-out will optimise the amount of silage eaten by stock, and the feed value they extract from it.

Most additives are designed to enhance the natural fermentation rate and speed up the fall in pH, resulting in a more stable clamp. An additive will keep good silage good, but it will not make poor grass into good silage!


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