Do I have enough silage to get through the winter?


Analyse your silage reserves for the winter

Do I have enough silage to get through the winter?

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  • 1 mth ago

Analyse your silage reserves for the winter

The weather throughout the 2019 grass growing year was quite variable, writes CAFRE’s Christopher Breen.

Good growth conditions in late April and early May generally provided good conditions for first cut silage making, with some crops harvested earlier than normal.

Second and third-cuts grew and yielded well, although there were challenging conditions at times throughout June and August.

In general, most farms should have adequate silage reserves for the winter. However, it is still a worthwhile exercise to calculate your forage requirements and check sufficient silage is available.

Use Tables 1 and 2 to estimate the tonnage of silage available on your farm and compare this with likely winter demand.

For example, the volume of silage in the pictured pit is calculated by multiplying the length (38 m) by the width (10 m) by the height (3 m) – 38 m x 10 m x 3 m = 1140 cubic metres.

Table 1: Conversion factors to convert silage volume to tonnes of silage

Silage DM %

Tonnes of silage/cubic metre

20

Multiply by 0.77

25

Multiply by 0.68

30

Multiply by 0.60

Assuming the dry matter of silage in our example is 25 percent, multiply the volume by 0.68. 1140 cubic metres x 0.68 = 775 tonnes of fresh silage.

Table 2: Estimated monthly feed requirement of stock eating 25% dry matter silage

Livestock

Silage (tonnes/month)

Dairy cow in milk

1.4

Dry cow

0.9

0-1-year heifer

0.6

1-2-year heifer

0.9

To estimate the demand for silage, multiply the number of each class of stock by the number of months to be fed.

For example, 80 cows in milk fed for seven months require 784 tonnes (80 x 7 x 1.4).

Options if you don’t have enough silage

The priority is to feed the best-quality silage to early lactation/high yielding cows, then consider the following options:

  • Cull barren, poor performing or problem cows;

  • Source suitable silage supplies for young/dry stock;

  • Feed young stock a straw/concentrate diet;

  • Use alternative feeds if available.

Silage quality on-farm

Due to the variable weather conditions and cutting dates throughout the 2019 grass growing season, there will be a variation in silage quality.

It is, therefore, important to analyse your silage to know its potential feed value (M+). This will allow you to determine how much concentrate to feed at each stage of production.

Table 3 shows the difference in the amount of concentrate needed to feed a cow in early lactation with average and good quality silage.

Table 3: Feed requirement for 32-litres of milk

Average silage

Good silage

Silage ME

10.8

11.8

Silage dry matter (%)

28.1

28.1

Silage fresh weight (kg)

40

43

M+ (kg of milk daily)

M+8

M+12

Daily concentrates required (kg)

11

9

October jobs checklist

  • Prepare/repair housing before winter;

  • Identify cows to dry off in the next two months and assess body condition. Now is the ideal time to improve body condition by feeding additional concentrates to cows with a body condition score of less than 3;

  • Analyse silage in preparation for planning the winter diet;

  • Change time clocks at the end of the month when the hour changes;

  • The last day for spreading slurry is October 15th. Try to ensure tanks are empty well before that date.

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