Teagasc’s Tom Ryan is concerned about what he regards as the over-filling of many silos (pits) on Irish livestock farms. Writing in the current issue of Today’s Farm magazine, he suggests that some farmers feel they can expand stock numbers but manage with their existing silage pits.

“The result is that the height at filling, and even feed-out, is dangerously high. Pits are getting narrower and narrower as they rise, increasing the risk of loaders toppling,” he adds.

In addition, the effectiveness of consolidation is lessened. At feed-out, stripping back the cover and tyres becomes a much more dangerous operation.

Ryan points out that attention to detail is what helps farmers minimise losses when it comes to making silage. He confirms that grass should be wilted, if possible, by cutting with a conditioner mower. The grass should then be spread out as much as possible.

“Follow this by tedding out the swaths before raking into windrows for subsequent pick-up. Weather permitting, this approach should ensure that the grass dry matter is between 27% and 32% within 12 to 24 hours of cutting,” he adds.

This reduces the potential for effluent production and concentrates the sugars in the forage to encourage good fermentation.

Ryan explains that fast filling of silage pits is good.

“The only drawback is that the spreading, levelling and consolidating of grass might not be given enough time. This is more critical in silage pits being filled with wilted material.

“It is important to spread wilted grass in thin layers and compact it thoroughly.”

According to Ryan, grass digestibility is lower in the stems than the leaves, so anything that increases the proportion of stem in the ensiled material lowers the average digestibility.

“When the load of grass is tipped out in the yard the colour and the feel of the material gives a good indication of the stem-to-leaf ratio. The extra yield gained by cutting lower is small and comes at the cost of diluting the quality of the silage.”

“Rapid filling, good consolidation and an effective air-tight seal will generally result in fast and efficient preservation with minimal dry matter losses,” he adds.

“The preservation process cannot begin while there is any air left in the pit. So a lack of attention to detail in sealing the pit will delay this process and increase losses. Ensure that silage pits really are air-tight.”