Silage season 2016: your guide to getting the balance exactly right

Beef producers all over the world face exactly the same challenge.

How can you produce beef as efficiently as possible to optimise profit? 

All costs must be looked at. Grass silage is a significant cost on any Irish farm and getting it wrong can prove to be very costly.

Poor quality silage will delay finish indoors and increase the requirement for concentrates. 

Some have been lucky to get first cut silage saved in the last week or so.

Apart from last weekend’s rain, the weather seems relatively settled and the outlook is for warmer 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. 

The decision to take a first cut early may result in perhaps being able to take a third cut should you require it.

This would result in maximising the amount of grass ensiled per acre.

For many good reserves of fodder exist from last winter and as a result 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 hrs. 

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.

Tedding: Yes or No?

Ideally, pit silage should be ensiled within 24 hrs of mowing to reduce deterioration of silage quality. 

There is a happy medium which must be reached. In my opinion many are over wilting silage in Ireland resulting in silages being too dry at feed out. This leads to mould and excessive waste.

For me the ideal dry matter for Irish silages is between 23% and 29%. In my experience, these silages are easier to manage in the pit and feed well. 

When tedding grass consider the weather conditions and timing of pickup. If tedded out grass gets wet, it is very difficult and costly to dry it down again.


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