Silage insight for Scottish farmers

After a tricky silaging season, knowing exactly what is in the clamp is vital when planning a cost-effective winter diet for the dairy herd.

Dairy Nutrition
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Bruce Forshaw, ForFarmers Product Manager said that insight into silage quality can help reduce outgoings and target budget where it is needed while maintaining productivity.

“Our analysis of customers’ silages across Scotland and the north of England has shown that overall that dry matter figures are much the same but MELK is about a litre down compared to 2021, assuming an average dry matter intake,” he said.

“ME is a little higher than the last couple of years but we strongly recommend that cows are rationed to MELK and not ME. Cows that are rationed to ME will assume the silage part of the ration is 9.6 litres compared to 10.6 litres when rationing to MELK. Using ME would therefore lead to over feeding.

“It’s interesting to note that protein is better in the 2023 results compared to the last couple of years, which may mean you can reduce the amount of protein you buy in, therefore lowering bills while also helping towards sustainability targets.

However there are some results which give cause for concern, he said. “Average pH is higher which generally means that silages will be less stable. We have also seen lower lactic acid which has an effect on quality.”

Unlike the rest of the UK, Scottish silages have slightly higher Conservation Index this year, but Heating index is higher, he said. “This indicates they are at increased risk of aerobic spoilage and heating once the clamp is opened. This is, in part due to lower lactic acid.

“The best advice is to get full nutritional and mineral analysis of your silage and ration exactly what your cows need to help them perform at their best while minimising waste.

“If you find your silages are lacking there are options to balance your ration economically and sustainably including use of co-products. In Scotland availability for these has improved considerably since the opening of our Cumnock storage facility.”

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