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Careful feed management will help get the most out of this year’s first cut silage

Our analysis of first cut grass silage from across the country paints a promising picture for dairy farmers, with greater milk potential in this year’s crop despite slightly lower ME values compared to last year.

Get the most from your silage

“Following nationwide analysis of ForFarmers customers’ first cut grass silage, we can see that average ME values currently stand at 11.24 MJ/kg, which is slightly down on last year’s values of 11.29,” explains ForFarmers’ Product Manager, Bruce Forshaw. “However, due to higher D values, a lower rumination index (RI) and higher levels of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates (RFC), the energy available for milk production – which is represented by the MELK value – is considerably higher this year and highlights that there is good potential to gain more milk from this year’s first cut.”

Whilst this year’s first cut has good milk potential, complimentary feeding will have to be carefully managed in order to maximise cow performance and maintain overall rumen health.

Looking closer

“The acidosis index (AI) value of this year’s first cut is higher compared to the last, in part due to raised levels of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates (RFC),” explains Bruce. “Higher level of RFC result in increased microbial protein, which is good for milk production, but too much and cows can start to experience acidosis.

Farmers should therefore consider feeding slower fermenting carbohydrates, such as maize or caustic wheat to help balance their base silage ration. Higher values of true digestible protein (TDP) in this year’s first cut silage mean that the increased energy for milk production (MELK) is balanced with protein available for milk production (TDP).

Nutrient 1st cut average 2019 1st cut average 2020 3 year average (2018,19,20)
Dry matter (g/kg) 320 354 330
MELK (g/kg) 951 967 958
TDP (g/kg) 63 64 61
RFC (g/kg) 197 182 180
ME (MJ/kg) 11.29 11.24 11.11
D value (g/kg) 700 702 692
CP (g/kg) 144 126 130
pH 4.23 4.35 4.25
Sugar (g/kg) 79 99 77
NDF (g/kg) 465 463 476
RI 174 171 176
Lactic acid (g/kg) 59 50 58
AI 105 111 104

Updated: 10.07.2020

Additive effects

Average dry matter values are 34g/kg DM higher this year compared to 2019 and this may have made the crop harder for producers to ensile and made silage more susceptible to aerobic fermentation, once the clamp is opened.

“The lower pH levels, as well as lower lactic acid and higher butyric acid values, give us an insight into the fermentation characteristics of this year’s first cut silage crops and many will not have been the easiest to make,” concludes Bruce. “Those farmers who used a suitable additive will have helped to reduce any potential silage losses once the clamp has been opened.

Our analysis also highlights that those farmers who opted to treat silage with an additive this year have considerably improved the key nutrient and fermentation characteristics of their first cut crops.”

Nutrient Additive No additive
DM 370 350
MELK 987 961
TDP 68 64
Lactic acid 52 50
Butyric acid 1.19 2.63
Acetic acid 13 14
pH 4.26 4.37

For more information

For more information about complimentary feeding, silage additives or dairy rations please speak to your local ForFarmers account manager, call 0330 678 0982 or enquire online here.