‘No reason why suckler farmers shouldn’t be able to make high-quality silage’

There is no reason why suckler farmers shouldn’t be able to make high-quality silage, according to Teagasc’s Joe Patton.

Speaking at the Teagasc Beef open day, Patton said that the stocking rate on suckler farms is quite low and as a result they should be able to take out extra grass as top quality bales.

“There is room to improve the quality of silage made on beef farms,” he said, as many farmers leave it too late to harvest and as a result, the quality of silage falls.

Patton said one of the main challenges beef producers face is having an adequate yield of silage while also meeting feed quality targets for good animal performance.

And, he said that the silage quality needed on farm will depend on the mix of livestock present on the farm over the winter.

The Teagasc Specialist also highlighted research from Teagasc Grange which looked at the performance of finishing cattle offered high-quality and low-quality silage.

Source: Teagasc
Source: Teagasc
The study showed that cattle fed high-quality silage (75% DMD) gained approximately 0.3kg more liveweight gain than cattle fed silage with a DMD of 65% (national average).

The extra performance was due to a combination of higher daily DM intake and greater feed energy value per kilogram of silage Dry Matter.

The cattle fed on the high-quality silage were also 40kg heavier after a 150 day housing period and ate 2.0-2.5kg less concentrates each day.

Benefits of high quality silage:
  • Efficient carcass gain
  • Shorter final finishing period
  • Higher intakes
  • Improved milk yield
  • Less concentrate requirements

Patton also said that making silage can be quite an expensive process (€125-160 per tonne of dry matter).

And when harvesting is delayed, it can have a negative impact on the feed value of silage, due to a high stem and fibre content, which results in lower digestibility and animal intakes.

Silage with a high fibre (51%) and a Dry Matter Digestibility of 68%
Silage with a high fibre (51%) and a Dry Matter Digestibility of 68%

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