Often I ask the question ‘How do you make the best silage’. It is a good question and even though sheds are just about empty in some places, silage is starting to be made in others.
As a farmer who finishes cattle, I am always concerned with silage quality, and last year, I remember that in pursuit of quality, quantity suffered, to the extent of a much larger second cut than planned. My plans last year fell victim to the weather, which we as farmers are slaves to. April 2016 is a month which sticks in my memory as being a cold month with no growth.
However, when my first cut was analysed, DMD% was found to be 70.7%, which was quite pleasing, preservation was found to be good also.
A lot of research has taken place into silage quality, before and after cutting, with grass types, times of cutting, time left to wilt and covering all having been analysed.
For silage to achieve good feed quality, i.e DMD, then the main grasses must contain a majority of leaf, not stem. Leaving a crop too long growing will reduce quality as the feed value is in the leaf just the same as if grazing the ground, stemmy grass is not eaten and ends up wasted. Such is the same for silage quality grass. Any grass that has seeded will definitely not contain anywhere near feed values satisfactory to any enterprise as the energy contained in the crop has been expended in the seed.
It is noted that the best sugar values in silage crops are in the afternoon and if you have the luxury of naming the time to start mowing, then always aim for the afternoon.
Also it has the benefit of any early morning dew having been dried up from the crop at this stage.
The wilting process or drying stage may not make a difference to the feed values of your silage but can have a massive effect on the proper preservation of the crop. Having the grass as dry as possible can hugely improve preservation, as the acid necessary for this is not diluted by excess water once baling or the pit is complete.
Helping to dry out the crop can either be by nature, leaving it down up to 48 hours or by tending out and raking, which can hurry up the wilting process by about a day. Useful information if rain threatens but not always possible if the necessary machinery is not available to you.
Storage. Very simple. Keep everything and anything away from the pit or the bales, i.e. cats, birds and humans. If necessary, use nets and tyres or anything else that might frighten or otherwise keep birds or other vermin from getting on the plastic to cause any air to access the silage inside.
By all reports cattle are still a great trade, even as numbers dwindle, buyers are still active for most types of cattle, with almost full clearances being reported from sales around the country.
Young Bulls 405-415c/kg