Video: How to make the best of silage quality while also minimising waste

No farmer sets out to make bad silage, and no farmer sets out to waste silage. Yet we know from practical on farm experience that every year a significant amount of silage dry matter is needlessly wasted, putting farmers at unnecessary risk of forage shortages.

As herd sizes increase and weather patterns become even more unpredictable, it’s more important than ever to make quality silage and reduce wastage.

In partnership with silage experts Lallemand Animal Nutrition, Specialist Nutrition has produced a series of videos aimed at reminding farmers how to make the best quality silage, while also minimising waste.

Getting ahead of the game

The saying goes, those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail; the same rule applies when aiming to make quality silage:

In this video Specialist Nutrition and Lallemand Animal Nutrition remind farmers how to “Get Ahead of the Game” when it comes to silage making.

  • Monitor grass as it develops in the weeks leading up to cutting silage to help determine a cutting date and schedule a contractor;
  • Pre-cut testing can help identify when grass is ready to cut looking at metrics such as nitrate, sugar and fibre levels. Or a simple in-field test using nitrate strips will indicate when levels are less than 250mg/L and therefore ready to cut;
  • Have covers and weights prepared;
  • Remove all waste on the existing pit; on the day of ensiling clear away at least 1m off the face and remove all existing plastic.

Cutting silage in a day

Cutting and ensiling is the obvious crucial stage to get right when making quality silage and there are a number of key things farmers should aim for in this stage of the silage making process:

  • Assess the crops dry matter and aim to cut at as high a dry matter as possible;
  • Cut in the afternoon, when sugars are at their highest;
  • Ensure no soil is brought into the grass; particularly on hills;
  • A cutting height of around 6cm is ideal as it’s above the growing point and farmers will see better regrowth’s for second and third cut silages;
  • Don’t leave silage wilt for any longer than 24 hours. Ideally, grass should dry out to 30-35% dry matter before being ensiled, and it generally dries at a rate of up to 1% per hour;
  • Use additives to help with fermentation, this will reduce waste and increase nutrient retention.

Target zero waste

Some pits can have as high as 10-15% waste; minimising this is very achievable and something that all farmers should aim to do:

  • Get the structure of the clamp right. Good consolidation is crucial in order to extract air, so give the person at the pit time to load and roll;
  • Build the clamp in layers, with each layer no more than 25cm, being careful not to go over the wall height of the pit;
  • Achieve an air tight seal; through the use of a proven oxygen barrier on top, plastic sheeting covering the full pit and heavy weights on top such as truck tires and sandbags down the sides.

Why use silage additives

Silage additives speed up the preservation process in the pit and therefore reduce energy losses.

They are also proven to have the secondary benefit of reducing wastage once the pit has been opened and exposed to oxygen, by slowing down the secondary fermentation process.

Through Specialist Nutrition, Lallemand has a range of silage additives on offer to suit various silage types:

  • Supersile– suitable for silage with dry matter up to 27%;
  • Axphast – suitable for silage that was cut in poor conditions and had low sugar levels when cut;
  • Axcool – suitable for grass that was cut with a dry matter over 30%.

For more information about silage additives or advice on silage making, contact Specialist Nutrition on: 051-833071.

Further information

Specialist Nutrition provides expert nutritional products and advice on farm, while also being a leader in the management of moist and liquid feed co-product derived from the human food and drinks industry.

Not content to settle with the norm, Specialist Nutrition challenges the status quo; with the aim of unlocking farm potential.

Lallemand Animal Nutrition is a major supplier in silage additives across the world, with a range of products available to suit all silage types.

As part of its initiative to “Unlock Farm Potential”, Specialist Nutrition is inviting farmers to enter its competition to win a trip to the AgriScot Show in the UK, along with lots of monthly prizes to be won.

Simply visit: www.specialistnutrition.ie/ to enter the competition. Or just click here

Continue to follow Specialist Nutrition’s “Unlock Challenge” campaign on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts @SpecialistNutri.