Should I graze or mow my second-cut silage paddocks?

Average farm covers are extremely low across the country and many farmers have no option but to turn to second-cut silage paddocks as a source of feed. Bringing paddocks originally earmarked for a second cut of silage into the rotation will increase supplies.

The cheaper option is to graze paddocks; however, farmers have to assess their own individual situation. Some silage fields that are gone too strong for grazing (3,000-3,500kg/ha of dry matter) should be cut.

Farmers grazing these paddocks – even with a back fence – will struggle to get the desired residual. In addition, a lot of the quality will be deteriorating out of the sward, so this can be cut to 4cm and set up for when the rain does come.

On the other hand, second-cut silage paddocks with lighter covers (2,200-2,500kg/ha of dry matter) can be grazed. Again, it is very important to graze to the residual of 4cm; hammering paddocks will have a negative effect of regrowths.

Speaking at a recent Teagasc fodder event, Teagasc’s Fergus Bogue said: “If farmers have second-cut silage – that is poor quality, with a relatively poor cover – I would advise to graze it now with a strip wire and a back fence.

“If paddocks are gone beyond grazing, farmers are going to have to cut it. But, if you have second-cut silage paddocks and they have a low cover, with little potential of growing anymore, the cheaper option is to graze it.

If it’s gone beyond grazing, you cut it. But, if it’s at a low yield – with little potential – graze it.

Some farmers are experiencing grass deteriorating in the paddocks. Therefore, monitoring paddocks is crucial.

On this, Fergus said: “We take action now; we take it out now. We either graze it or we cut it and, hopefully, we can get a third cut off it later in the year.”