Harvesting or picking up the silage crop is important and there are a number of factors farmers need to bear in mind when completing this task.

Such factors include chop length, avoiding field losses and making sure the entire process runs smoothly.

As part of Cut to Clamp, a new initiative from Volac which aims to help farmers make consistently better silage, we take a look at the important steps to get right when harvesting or picking up your silage.

1. Chop length

Farmers need to avoid the common pitfall of not paying enough attention to chop length, as using the optimum chop length is crucial when harvesting grass.

The optimum chop length has a big impact on how good a consolidation you can ultimately achieve in the clamp or pit.

The ideal chop length is be driven by the Dry Matter percentage (DM%) of the grass and, generally speaking, the drier it becomes the shorter the chop length that is required.

Pay silage

What chop length should I use? 

guideline chop lengths

As a guide, if the grass is >30% DM, chop to 1.5-2.5cm to help improve consolidation.

But if it’s highly-digestible grass, the chop length may need to be increased to 5cm to ensure that there is sufficient effective fibre in the diet of the animal consuming the silage.

If grass is at 20-30% DM, farmers should use a chop length of 2.5-5.0cm and if it’s <20% DM you may need to increase the chop length up to 10cm to reduce effluent and prevent clamp slippage.

2. Limit field losses

Irish farmers and contractors often face a battle with the weather when picking up silage crops and the risk of rain may force some to overfill trailers.

However, overfilling trailers can result in losses and doing so can result in 1-2% of the grass crop being lost in the field.

It may not seem like a lot, but on large acreages it can amount to a substantial amount of potential feed.

silage3. Sharp knives and delays at pitting

Both farmers and contractors also need to ensure that knives on silage wagons and harvesters are sharp to ensure an even flow of material through the machine.

Keeping the knives sharp and making necessary adjustments, if needed, can have a positive impact on the amount of fuel used during the harvesting stage.

Silage is produced when beneficial bacteria ferment some of the sugars in grass to lactic acid. This ‘pickles’ the grass, preventing the growth of spoilage micro-organisms and so preserving nutrients.

However, an efficient fermentation requires air-free conditions within the clamp (pit).

Therefore, making sure the path to the pit is clear is important. A five-minute delay in the yard on ten loads of silage could be the difference in covering the pit in the light of day or in darkness.

This post is sponsored by Volac as part of its new Cut to Clamp initiative, which aims to raise the profile of good silage as a vital part of modern farming. For more information on the Cut to Clamp initiative click here