Help to protect your farm against price volatility with good silage
01 March 2017
We all know the benefits of good silage. But are we really all doing everything we can to produce good quality silage?
If you want to help protect your farm business against ups and downs in milk or meat prices, or feed costs, there’s a straightforward approach: maximise the amount of milk or meat produced from home-grown forage.
It is arguably one of a livestock farm’s biggest assets.
Producing quality silage
Grass harvest will be here before we know it. So it makes sense to get the most from it. Making sure that you produce the best possible silage requires attention to detail at every stage.
To begin, clean clamps are essential. Remove old silage and pressure-wash the clamp, including the area in front of it, in order to minimise transfer of undesirable bacteria and fungi to this year’s fresh silage. Repair any cracks, and line the walls with polythene, allowing plenty for overlapping sheets.
You should know your target harvest date. So make sure sheeting and additive are ordered in time, and schedule your contractor if you use one.
If you do your own harvesting, ensure all machinery is working and serviced – including that the additive applicator is clean and working properly. At harvest, use of the correct chop length for the forage’s dry matter is crucial to produce good silage. So ensure that harvester blades are sharp and can be set up to achieve this.
Prior to harvest, any slurry and nitrogen fertiliser issues should also be addressed.
If bagged nitrogen has been applied but hasn’t all been taken up by the plant, it can lead to excess nitrates in the crop, particularly if high rainfall just before cutting stimulates sudden uptake. The problem with a high nitrate content in the plant is it results in less sugar being available, and sugar is needed for a good fermentation to preserve silage. If it is very high it can also lead to the production of toxic silo gas. If in doubt, have your grass analysed.
Similarly, residual slurry on the crop at cutting acts as a source of bad bacteria, such as clostridia and enterobacteria, which also increase the risk of a poor fermentation. So avoid spreading slurry too close to the cutting date, and check the crop before cutting to ensure no residual slurry remains, especially if there hasn’t been much rain.
If you are concerned about fertiliser or slurry issues, then ensuring that grass is wilted to above 30% dry matter and using an additive can both reduce the risk of a poor fermentation.
Once grass is at the correct growth stage, the aim should be to cut when the weather will allow you to wilt as quickly as possible to a target dry matter of 28-32%. Rapid wilting helps to minimise loss of sugars, and cutting when there will be warm, breezy conditions is ideal. Using a mower-conditioner and spreading grass will also reduce wilting time.
Also at harvest, remember the importance of choosing a proven silage additive. Clearly, an additive that’s shown to improve fermentation is important. But ideally you want to see a livestock benefit from feeding the treated silage.
Ecosyl contains a specially-selected MTD/1 strain of beneficial Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria. There are numerous trials showing that treating with it hasn’t just improved fermentation, it also improved conservation of dry matter, and gave better preservation of feed quality.
Importantly, results from 15 dairy trials have also shown an average milk yield increase of 1.2 litres per cow per day. These trials were conducted around the world and on a number of crops, showing it is a consistent performer.
For detailed product information, please download our full product brochure.
Continuing this joined-up ensiling process, it is essential the clamp is filled correctly – achieving a good consolidation to squeeze out all the air.
Fermentation occurs when some of the crop’s sugars are converted to acid by beneficial bacteria to effectively pickle the forage, hence the reason for adding extra bacteria with a proven additive. However efficient fermentation requires the absence of air.
Achieving air-free conditions also stops undesirable yeasts multiplying in the silage and causing it to heat up at feedout. Once you’ve achieved a good consolation, it’s essential to seal the clamp effectively – to prevent further ingress of air.
Silage quality and quantity
Attention to detail at every stage of silage-making can make a big difference to the silage quality and quantity you have available to feed for the coming winter – and potentially have a big benefit for your farm’s bottom line.
The Volac range of Ecosyl silage additives is effective in maintaining the nutritional quality of silage, whether clamp, big bale, maize or whole crop. Learn more about the full range of products here.
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