Silage can be extremely variable in terms of its nutritional characteristics, according to Teagasc’s Kevin Barron.

“So it’s important to get as representative a sample from the pit as possible,” he said.

“We have been encouraging clients to test their silage since the beginning of September. And we have now tested a representative number of forages made in 2015.

“Most of the samples are sent to AFBI Hillsborough in Northern Ireland for analysis.

“The results come back directly to us, after which they are discussed in detail with individual producers.”

Barron said that, across the board, silage quality does not change that much from year to year.

“But what the analysis work will do is highlight specific problems that can arise, from time to time. For example, many of the silages made at the end of May in our catchment area had a lower than expected quality profile.

“And we can attribute this to the poor weather which affected the region at that time.”

Teagasc uses independent contractor Tom Cummins to take silage samples on behalf of farmers in the Tipperary/East Limerick area.

“Samples should be taken from the highest point on the pit,” he said.

“In my own case I can core down to a depth of seven and a half, which gets me down to the very bottom of the forage in most silos.

The top five inches of forage are discarded with the remainder placed in a container.

“Up to seven cores from the pit will be required. These will then be mixed together and a representative sample then drawn off.”

Cummins said that holes created in the plastic must be taped up, in order to prevent forage degradation.

“Most farmers now seal their pits with two layers of plastic. So, both sheets must be taped in order to keep air out.

“When testing bales, it is standard practice to core two from each batch made in order to get a representative sample.”