Silage 2017 is here, and up and down the country farmers are aiming to get the all-important first cut into the clamp on time, without major losses.
“Losses between cutting and feeding can be as high as 32-34% of the forage grown, and on every 100 tonnes of silage dry matter (DM), a 15% loss equates to as much as *£1,250,” says Wynnstay dairy specialist, Martin Hope.
“Therefore, it’s vital farmers account for all the possible risk areas now, to maximise the end feed value and ultimately the milk from forage output.”
Mr Hope says that the cutting time is crucial, as it’s directly linked to the quality of the grass in the clamp.
“The beginning of May is the opportune time to get grass cut, so if farmers think the fields may be ready now, I’d advise to go with the gut instinct and get the grass in the clamp,” he says.
“At this time of year, D values can be as high as 74%, resulting in a high metabolisable energy (ME) value. However, from mid-May onwards these begin to decline, as the grass starts to produce stems and heads which are lower in digestibility, reducing the feed quality of the silage.
“If the weather suits, it’s best to get the grass cut and clamped, as quality won’t increase.”
For Mr Hope, another area to play close attention to is consolidation of the silage when in the clamp.
“Compaction and clamp losses are directly related.
“Consolidation is critical, which is why I always advise to adhere to the 400 rule when it comes to rolling the pit. Crudely speaking, this multiplies the rate of ensilage per hour by 400, giving us the weight required to compact the silo to achieve minimum losses.
“For example, if a farmer is harvesting 100 tonnes per hour, they’ll need 40,000kg, or 40t of tractor weight consolidating per hour. That’s the equivalent of to a 200hp loaded tractor fitted with a silopacter.
“If room on the clamp, or machinery availability is an issue, slowing the speed of harvest is the same as adding weight.”
He adds that oxygen is the enemy of silage production, so it’s vital it’s squeezed out when filling and covering the clamp.
“It’s important to get into the routine of sheeting down the clamp each night during harvest, so that the carbon dioxide is not lost and replaced by oxygen.
“Remember, you have paid to grow the grass, so why lose any quality at this stage? Every kilogram of feed lost is a kilogram of feed that will not be converted into milk, so attention to detail at this stage of the season will pay dividends when feeding this autumn.”