What should I spread after my second-cut silage?

As second cuts were harvested that bit earlier this year, many farmers are in the predicament on whether or not they should go for a third cut.

The unforeseen weather events of 2018 made it clearer than ever the importance of having a fodder reserve in place on your farm.

During the recent Moorepark Open Day, Teagasc’s Joe Patton recommended securing a fodder reserve of 500-800kg of DM/cow above the normal stocks needed to balance the system.

Doing your calculations to see if you have enough or too little winter feed available – while taking into account this fodder reserve – will help you decide on whether or not a third cut is required.

Winter feed requirements:
  • Cows – 1.6t/animal/month;
  • Weanlings – 0.7t/animal/month;
  • In-calf heifers – 1.3t/animal/month.


If aiming for a third cut, spread between 60-70 units of nitrogen (N)/ac to silage ground after second-cut silage. If a high amount of clover (>20%) is present in the sward, less N is required.

In addition to N, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) off-takes must be replaced. The best way to do this is through the use of slurry; however, if no slurry is available a compound fertiliser can be used.

Apply 1,500-2,000 gallons of slurry as soon as possible after silage is lifted plus 55-60 units of N/ac – five-to-seven days later. If applying slurry, slightly less N is needed.

To get the best response, use a low-emission slurry spreader (LESS) such as a trailing shoe. Teagasc studies revealed that LESS will retain an extra three units of N/1,000 gallons of slurry compared to a splash plate.

Where a third cut is not being made, spread 40-50 units of N/ac and replace P and K off-takes. This will leave you with grass to extend the grazing season in the back end.