CAFRE Management Notes: Dairying

How much silage have you made this year?
How much silage have you made this year?

Variable weather conditions: While the east of the province has had a good grass growing year with ideal grazing conditions and bumper yields of silage, this has not been the case in the west.

Due to prolonged periods of wet weather many herds were housed at night and some have been housed full-time. As a result many farms will have insufficient silage for the winter. If you have not already done so now is the time to calculate your forage requirements.

How much forage do you have and need?

Use the Tables to estimate the tonnage of silage available and compare this with your likely winter demand.

The volume of silage is calculated by multiplying the length of the pit by the width by the height. For example the volume of silage in a pit measuring 38m by 10m by 3m is 1140 cubic metres.

To convert the volume of silage to tonnes multiply the volume by the correct conversion factor (Table 1). For example, if the silage is 25% dry matter multiply 1140 by 0.68. This equals 775 tonnes of fresh silage.

Table 1: Conversion factors to convert silage volume to tonnes of silage

To estimate the demand for silage, multiply the number of each class of stock by the number of months to be fed by the monthly feed requirement (Table 2). For example, 80 in milk cows fed for seven months require 784 tonnes (80 x 7 x 1.4).

Table 2: Estimated monthly feed requirement of stock eating 25% dry matter silage

Options to consider for a silage shortfall

The priority is to feed the best quality silage to early lactation/ high yielding cows. If there is a shortfall of silage consider:

* Culling unproductive (barren, poor performing or problem) cows.

* Sourcing suitable silage supplies for young/ dry stock.

* Feeding young stock a straw/concentrate diet.

* Using alternative feeds, if available.

Do you know the quality of your silage?

Analysing your silage provides information on its potential feed value (M+). This allows you to make decisions on the level of concentrates needed in your situation.

Table 3 shows the difference in concentrate needed to feed a cow in early lactation with average and good quality silages.

Table 3: Feed requirement for 32 litres of milk

October jobs checklist:

* Prepare/repair housing before winter.

* Identify cows to dry off in the next two months and assess body condition. To improve body condition feed additional concentrates to cows with a body condition score of less than 3.

* Assess body condition of young stock, especially maiden heifers. Will they be in the right condition for service? Does the feed rate need to be increased?

* Calibrate feeders to ensure accurate feeding.

* Change time clocks at the end of the month when the hour changes.

* Try to ensure slurry tanks are empty for the forth coming housed period. Remember the last day for spreading slurry is 15th October.

* Keep a record of exports of organic manures as these must now be submitted annually to NIEA by 31st January for the previous calendar year.