Now is the ideal time to finalise grass-silage strategies for the coming season. With every additional 1,000 litres of milk obtained from forage reducing production costs by as much as 2ppl, having a clear plan to maximise grass silage volume and quality makes good business sense.
While there are some external factors, such as the weather, that are beyond producers’ control, it is possible to control cutting schedules and harvest timings. Both can positively affect silage yields and end quality. Producers should consider taking an earlier first cut this season to improve overall silage performance. While total tonnage harvested may be low compared to a later first cut, quality will be higher and further silage cuts will achieve better yields.
Frequency of cuts should also be considered, with a multi-cut approach often leading to higher D value silage. When fed out, this more digestible silage can result in cows achieving higher forage intakes and improved milk yields.
Timing can also have a significant impact on grass digestibility and subsequent cow performance. To ensure the highest quality, grass needs to be cut before heading and should be harvested either mid-morning or early afternoon to minimise moisture levels and maximise sugar content. Regular checks on silage fields to assess grass growth need to be factored into day-to-day work schedules. To improve dry matter content, producers also need to factor in a 24-hour wilting period before picking up grass.
The hot, dry 2018 summer has been favourable for maize silage quality. There is a noticeable difference in the quality of maize harvested in 2018 compared to 2017. Higher levels of starch recorded in crops means it is important farmers are aware of the nutritional opportunities and challenges that the silage poses and its p...