Silage season is fast approaching on dairy farms as farmers move to secure the fodder required for the winter months ahead.

Silage can make up a sufficient amount of the annual feed for a dairy farm. In fact, it accounting for a quarter of the annual feed on your average dairy farm.

Rising input costs have put silage in the spotlight, as fodder shortages are a concern for next winter.

This, coupled with the poor growth rates in April, may result in some farmers waiting for crops to bulk up before cutting.

But delaying the cutting date and allowing crops to bulk up has a sufficient impact on fodder quality.


To obtain the highest quality fodder with the highest dry matter digestibility (DMD), the first cut of silage needs to be harvest in mid to late-May.

Harvesting silage at this time should result in a DMD of between 75-72%, compared to a 68-70% DMD crop harvested in early June.

Feeding poorer quality silage to a growing heifer or a milking cows will require extra concentrates to be fed, thus increasing rearing or production cost.

Although harvesting enough silage is important, it is important to remember that by harvesting the crop earlier you can then close the fields for second cut.

This should result in very little, if any yield being lost, and could potentially allow for a third cut if required.

Having high quality feed that you can offer to stock is important; dry cows don’t require as high of DMD silage so can be offered second cut.

This means the first cut can be saved for your heifers and milking cows, which in turn should reduce cost.

Another way of ensuring enough fodder is secured is by reducing the stocking rate on your milking platform to allow for extra bales to be made.

Cull cows can be removed from the herd earlier in the year and should allow for extra bales on the milking platform to be made.