Do you know the quality of the silage in your pit or bales?

The end of the grazing season is fast approaching and, with that, comes the start of introducing silage to the herd. It is important that farmers know the quality of silage in their pit and/or bales before they start introducing it to the herd.

Over or underestimating the feeding value of your silage, due to a lack of test results, can be costly. If a forage is not analysed, then farmers will either underestimate or overestimate the amount of meal and/or silage required by stock in order to secure optimal animal performance.

During the Winter Milk event, held in Johnstown Castle this week, Teagasc’s Brian Garry said:

It’s not too early to get your silage tested. If you haven’t done so, it should definitely be something on your to do list.

When it comes to reading your analysis results, there are a few things farmers should look out for – which Brian outlined on the day.

“Look at your target feed into milk (FIM) value; it should be somewhere above 105 – it can go up to about 112. The higher this value is, the greater the intakes will be, or potentially be.

“If you take your FIM value on your report and divide it by eight you will get your total dry matter intake (DMI) per day from that silage.

However, this is just an indication; I wouldn’t be using it as a predictor of intakes, but it gives you an idea of what your silage quality is like.

Brian also highlighted that the amount fibre in your silage is another important thing to look for on your silage analysis results.

The neutral detergent fibre (NDF) value will determine this. The higher the value the more fibre there is. It should be in the range of 42-47%.

This will make you aware of the amount of fibre that is there; so you know whether or not more fibre is needed. The greater the fibre in the diet the lower the intakes will be.

“The higher the NDF forage the lower the DMI. So, the question on a lot of farms is, why are we feeding straw?

“We go to all this trouble of making good-quality silage and then we put in straw to dilute it down again, because we think there is not enough fibre in it – when really there is enough fibre in it.

“What we should be doing is taking out the straw, allowing them to eat more of a good-quality silage; this will in turn keep the costs down because you’re not including straw when it is not needed.”

Other good-quality indicators:
  • pH – 3.8 to 4.2;
  • Dry matter digestibility (DMD) – 70+;
  • Dry matter (DM) – 25%+.

Concluding, he said: “From a sustainability point of view there is a push on to try and reduce the amount of imported feed on farms; so it is important that we strive to make the best-quality silage that we can.”