Get ahead with silage-making plans

It’s never too early to plan this year’s silaging to find opportunities to improve yields and quality.

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Producing top-quality silage reduces reliance on bought-in feed, improves returns from grass and boosts cow health and fertility.

The first step is to ensure an annual forage plan is in place and this should include what land is available, the number of cuts planned, target tonnage and quality requirements.

Next, producers should examine clamps now to help review practices for this growing year. Consider the condition of the clamp, and the temperature and smell of the silage stored.

Retaining as much feed value as possible is achieved by encouraging bacteria to ferment grass sugar to produce lactic acid. Grass should be cut before it heads, after which digestibility falls by around 0.5 units per day. To reduce effluent and optimise fermentation the ideal dry matter (DM) is between 28% and 32%.

Fast wilting

Wilting grass as quickly as possible will minimise sugar losses. Chop length at harvest should also be adjusted to the crop’s DM. Greater than 30% DM and chop length should be between 15mm and 25mm to improve consolidation.

At between 20% and 30% DM, the ideal chop length is between 25mm and 50mm, and at less than 20% DM chop length should be up to 100mm to reduce effluent and clamp slippage.

Using a silage additive will help fermentation and improve quality. An additive can help to limit DM losses, as well as reduce heating and waste after opening by up to 50%. This can contribute towards an increase in milk production of up to 1.5 litres per cow per day.

Finally, fill the clamp in even layers of no more than 15cm deep to help consolidation and remove as much air as possible, and minimise the risk of aerobic spoilage.

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