Teagasc is advising farmers to avoid “bulking up” the first cut of silage, as this may prove to be a “false economy”.

Research by Teagasc shows that it is better to take two cuts, as this improves the yield and quality of the silage.

When the first cut is taken, in mid-to-late May, an extra 1t/ha of dry matter is produced, which is the equivalent of 4.5 bales/ha of silage, according to Teagasc.

The quality of the silage will also be “far superior” when cut earlier, as come mid-June, the grass plant enters its reproductive phase, producing a stem and seed heads.

Teagasc stated that the first cut might provide additional bulk, but this produces a lot of “poor-quality material” which offers “little nutritional value” to the animal.

“Silage cut in early June will struggle to be 65% dry matter digestibility (DMD), with this worsening if the sward was not grazed before closing,” the Teagasc advice note stated.

As many silage swards were not grazed prior to closing, due to the wet conditions, Teagasc is advising farmers to prioritise a mid-May cutting date.

A two-cut system starting in May also offers more options, for instance if we were to experience drought conditions, the silage has been cut in mid-May and the grass has started growing back.

However, if harvest is left until June, farmers might not have any grazing available and the grass is burning back.

Cutting earlier also ensures that the May growth is being incorporated into the second-cut silage crops, which will be “key in replenishing” fodder reserves, according to Teagasc.

Total DM/year based on dates of silage harvest Source: Teagasc

Along with targeting an earlier cutting date, Teagasc stated that completing a fodder budget is important to have throughout the year.

A Fodder Register is in place to help connect farmers who have fodder available with those farmers that require it.

Farmers can also contact the local Teagasc advisory office to register as “having feed available”, or to enquire if there are farmers on the register from whom, “they might source feed”.