What is the best way to wilt?
As soon as the crop is cut it starts to deteriorate. Sugars released during mowing will be used by a wide variety of bacteria that can grow in the presence of air, reducing the sugars available for fermentation. Yeasts and moulds can also proliferate in the dying plant material, increasing the risk of aerobic spoilage later. So, whatever dry matter you are aiming for it is important to get there quickly.
There are a number of things that will speed up the drying process:
- Don’t cut unless you have a long enough weather window
- Cut when it is warm and windy
- Condition the grass to speed up moisture release
- Maximise exposure to the sun and wind by spreading it over as much of the field surface as possible
- Ted it once or twice to increase drying – make sure the tedder (and rake) height is set not to scoop up soil
Even in good conditions it is not advisable to wilt for more than 24 hours because field losses and nutrient losses will probably exceed any benefits resulting from increased dry matter levels. A mini-wilt of no more than 12 hours probably gives the greatest benefit overall.