Farmers wanting to gain more control over their winter feed budget should analyse their silage cuts sooner rather than later – that’s the advice from the agriculture team at Barenbrug UK, a leading developer of forage grass seed.
Across the UK, most farmers will now have made at least one silage cut. After six weeks, some farmers will analyse the quality of silage in their clamps and bales to see what results have been achieved – but many will leave this important task until it’s time to start feeding winter rations.
Barenbrug’s message to farmers is to look at their silage as soon as possible to understand what they are working with and to aid financial planning. With a clear view of silage yield and nutritional values, it will be far easier for farmers to:
- Calculate winter feed budgets more accurately in terms of nutritional components and yield
- Decide whether high quality silage can be diluted for certain stock classes
- Determine if different dietary sources – such as protein – need to be added into the mix
- Choose whether subsequent cuts could be hay rather than silage
- Work out if some silage ground could be freed up for extra grazing
- Assess whether their farm’s current grassland policy is effective and profitable.
Mhairi Dawson, Research & Development Manager for Forage at Barenbrug UK, said: “Most UK farmers now have some silage sitting safely in clamps or bales. Over the coming weeks, before other tasks take over, they should have a good look at what they’ve got and work out a plan of action for the rest of the year. Assessing results now, rather than waiting until October, will pay huge dividends that could put farmers six months ahead of the game. If results are poor and a reseed or an overseed is necessary, this could be carried out in autumn, rather than waiting until next spring. Conversely if nutritional values are high, farmers could think about diluting their silage to make their first cut go further. Grassland is the cheapest form of feed for any livestock enterprise and this time of year there is a lot to be learnt, which can pave the way for a more effective grassland strategy. Knowing you’ve had a good first cut can take really the pressure off, while facing up to poor yields or poor quality silage means you can develop a plan to eliminate any underlying issues quickly.”
For farmers facing under par silage results, which are unrelated to weather or cutting conditions, Barenbrug’s advice is to condition score grass – looking for weed species and compaction and pH problems. Earlier this month Barenbrug launched the Good Grass Guide – a video and free ring bound booklet that explains the company’s five-stage field indexing system, which farmers can use to rate their fields. The Good Grass Guide includes practical hints and tips for tackling fields at different stages of repair from highly productive swards to pastures that are past their best and need reinvestment. To watch Barenbrug’s field indexing video or to request a free copy of the company’s Good Grass Guide, go to: www.barenbrug.co.uk/goodgrassguide