Just because it’s late in the year doesn’t mean it’s too late to save silage

Even though the silage season is wrapped up on the majority of farms across the country, the odd few farms here and there are still saving fodder.

Spring gone by was a particularly wet one, especially on farms in the western part of the country. It meant farmers had to keep stock housed for longer than they expected and this, in turn, put a strain on feed supplies.

If the weather permits and grass is getting ahead of you, then why not take another cut of silage off paddocks that are gone too strong? It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to winter feed supplies. It’s better to have it than to be looking for it as they do say.

It shouldn’t matter at what stage of the season you are saving a final cut of grass. If you are planning to save silage now, the focus should be on maximising and minimising dry matter (DM) losses.

The extra tonnes of silage that you save now could be critical in getting your stock through a late spring next year if the weather doesn’t allow for cattle to be turned out to grass.

Our grandfathers liked that extra link left in the hayshed come late March and the same applies today.

Having some silage left and cows at grass is a better ‘problem’ than having no silage left and cows not at grass, or at grass and needing buffer feeding.

The do’s and don’ts

So, if it is a case that you are saving silage now, then here a few tips when it comes to the late cutting of grass.

Don’t ‘shave’ fields by cutting too low for extra bulk. There are a number of reasons for this.

These include: 

  • The lower part of the stem is less digestible – so it has less nutritional value;
  • The bottom inch or so of the stem is where the plant stores nitrogen, which will buffer the fermentation, opening the door for DM and quality losses;
  • Leaving a low stubble means the cut grass will be lying closer to the soil surface. This increases the risk of soil bacteria getting into the clamp and spoiling the fermentation. In contrast, a longer stubble, that lifts grass off the soil, helps air to circulate and can speed up wilting;
  • If grass is cut below the bottom leaf node it seriously impairs its ability to recover and regrow.

DO wilt to the correct DM percentage. Later grass cuts may be lighter, but the days are getting shorter and cooler with heavy dews, which makes it more difficult to get the optimum 30% DM content unless it is windy. Speed up wilting times by tedding as soon as possible after cutting and check DM content regularly.

DO chop to the correct length. A shorter chop length, of 2-2.5cm, not only helps consolidation – which is particularly important if the percentage DM content is a bit high and there’s a risk of losses from silage heating in the presence of air (aerobic spoilage). It also helps to release more sugars, which aids fermentation.

Don’t neglect a quality additive. Just because you are making a late cut of silage, it does not make it any less important. As well as improving fermentation, Ecosyl additive from Volac has been shown to: halve DM losses; conserve more true protein; improve digestibility and silage intakes. That all adds up to increased milk yield per cow/day.

Remember, you only treat the number of tonnes you produce, so it is no more expensive than using this proven additive on earlier cuts.

Further Information

For more information on Ecosyl, just click here

For additional information on Cut To Clamp, simply click here