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Silage additive helps to drive forage intakes

In an industry where margins are tight and forage utilisation is so fundamental to the profitability of a dairy business, every mouthful of high-quality forage that a cow eats really does count.

With this in mind, for Welsh dairy farmer, Marcus Ferraro the use of a silage additive has become a ‘go-to’ resource in his drive to improve palatability of grass silage and maximise his cows’ forage intakes.

“My herd is producing average yields of 7,800 litres and we are aiming for 4,500 of these litres to come from forage alone, so getting plenty of high-quality silage into the cows is a number one priority,” explains Marcus, who farms near Cardigan, in West Wales.

“I first started using an additive with the mindset that it would just act as a bit of an ‘insurance policy’ when making grass silage, but now I see it as a key tool in helping me to optimise silage palatability and drive my cow’s feed intakes."

“Every extra mouthful of grass silage that we can get into our cows really does count when it comes to managing the profitability of our herd – and over the years, Ecosyl has proven to make a big difference.”

Marcus Ferraro with his cows

Utilising the farm's grass with a multi-cut system

Marcus runs an autumn block calving herd and milks 250 three-way cross Holstein, Norwegian Red, Fleckvieh cows in partnership with father and wife. The total size of the family farm is 520 acres, with 160 acres set aside for grazing during the spring and summer.

“We grow grass very well, so the aim is to utilise as much grass in our system as possible,” explains Marcus. “Cows will be turned out and rotationally grazed as early as mid-January and we also operate a multicut approach to silaging; kicking off our silaging season on 20th April.

“We often suffer from a lack of grass growth in the early part of the season due to hot weather, but the aim is to take grass cuts every 35 days. It is really important that the grass is clamped within 24 hours of cutting and this will happen no matter what the conditions.”

Marucs works with ForFarmers Forage Specialist, Michelle Cross, to assess grass ley performance and they are currently reviewing the use of Ryegrass Plus Grasses in some of the farm’s leys to help cope with the stress of dry conditions. Together with ForFarmers account manager, Elliw Griffiths, Michelle regularly analyses the farm’s silage and Elliw then uses this data to tweak the cow’s diet to ensure nutritional consistency in the base ration.

“Timely fertiliser application also helps to stimulate grass regrowth and quality too. During silage harvests we have a fertiliser spinner out in the field, chasing our contractor’s forage harvester out of harvested leys and spreading fertiliser as soon as possible.”

Results improve year on year

Analysis of this year’s first cut has ME at 11.2 and Crude Protein of 17.3%, with Marcus satisfied that silage yields and quality seem to be on an upward trajectory.

“We now aim to reseed land every four years, and this has made a big impact on grass ley performance,” says Marcus. “When we first got back into dairy farming in 2013, the farm had a lot of permanent pasture and we were struggling to get good volumes of high-quality silage – rarely producing anything with an ME content over 10.4. Since reseeding more regularly, the grass quality better and we consistently produce silage with ME of 11 and above.

Marcus's silage improves year on year

Successful use of Ecosyl additive

Whilst producing plenty of good quality grass is important, Marcus knows that this is only half the picture and that turning this grass into high quality, highly palatable silage is key to fuelling animal performance. In order to help optimise silage performance, and following advice from Michelle, Marcus started using Ecosyl back in 2015 and he has been an additive convert ever since.

“Our contactors, Cillech Agri, have a lot of acres to harvest and when the weather is good, I know that they can’t be with all the farmers on their list, at the same time,” explains Marcus. “When grass needs cutting, I don’t want to be in the position of having to wait out poor weather and then risk having to jostle for my place in the contractor ‘que’ with other famers, when the weather improves. Using Ecosyl helps give me the confidence to go ahead and let the contactors cut our grass, even when the conditions aren’t perfect.

“We started using Ecosyl as a bit of an ‘insurance policy’ when ensiling grass but have come to regard the use of a silage additive as much more than this. The additive is a resource that helps us – irrespective of the harvesting conditions - to proactively improve the palatability of our grass silage and therefore supporting high forage intakes in our cows.”

You get what you pay for

Whilst there are a large range of additives available on the market, Marcus has been impressed with Ecosyl’s performance and its ease of use.

“During a period of low milk price back in 2017, we actually switched to a cheaper brand of additive but noticed a significant drop off in feed intakes as the palatability of silage decreased,” concludes Marcus. “As soon as we switched back to Ecosyl, intakes increased again. So, whilst it was a more expensive product it more than makes up for this through increased feed utilisation."

Silage additive convert

Marcus with Ecosyl silage additive

“With the low volume applicator, you only need a small volume of additive to treat a large volume of silage. This means you are dealing with small bottles of additive, that can be ready mixed, rather than hauling barrels across the farm."

"I can easily provide contractors with a generous, supply of additive at the start of a day’s silaging, which they can keep safely in their vehicles. I don’t have to worry about them running out of additive whilst I get on with looking after my cows.”

For more information

For more information on our range of additives, advice on clamp management or multi-cut please speak to your local ForFarmers Forage Specialist or send us an online enquiry here