As producers aim to maximise milk from forage - either by growing grass as efficiently as possible or cutting more often to maximise yield and quality - using a silage additive is one of the most important factors to help reduce losses and improve performance. Energy losses from field to feed-out in a well-managed system can typically be up to 25%. Around half of these losses happen before opening the clamp and half occur after.
Fermentation is an important but potentially wasteful process in energy and protein terms. Better quality forage is at greater risk of losses, as feed for livestock is also feed for bacteria, yeast and moulds within the silage.
Rapid clamp filling, appropriate compaction, effective sealing and consistent top weight, followed by a shear grab used on a fast-moving face, are the basic requirements to minimise losses. Most silage additives can help to speed up fermentation, reducing protein breakdown and energy loss before opening. Some inoculants have been shown to reduce potential dry matter losses of up to 50%. The benefits of using an inoculant can be at least an extra litre per cow per day, or up to an extra 10% live weight gain.
Early grazing maximises the proportion of grazed grass in the cow's diet and we know the nutritional quality of spring grass is superior and cheaper than alternatives.
Current reseeding rates of 2-3% per year are far from the required rate if livestock farms are to maximise returns from forage. Grass leys are replaced far less often than every 10 years.
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