Now for the second half of silage season!

Silage season in full flow in Co. Down
Silage season in full flow in Co. Down

That tough drought last summer reminded us all of the need to simply have enough silage to feed no matter what the weather or the season!

Now that we are more than half way through 2019 it is time to literally take stock of silage stocks! How much grass silage is already in the pit or big bale?

Just as vital how much more silage in total, and that includes wholecrop, maize and grass, do you need to make? Can you make?

Remember silage heating and poor fermentation are the dual enemies of wholecrop and maize silages. And grass silage as well if poor compaction is an issue.

Both silage heating and inefficient fermentation not only erode silage nutrient content, but also the amount of dry matter.

In Maize, for example, a poor fermentation can cause DM losses of up to 10%. The same as loosing one trailer load in every 10 between field and clamp! Worse still these costly losses are invisible.

Plus further losses from silage heating can be around 20% even in good silage.

So what can you do? Maximising your tonne of DM requires best practice in the field and in the clamp.

For example, while it can be tempting to cut grass, wholecrop or maize a bit lower to gain extra bulk don’t ever do it! The lowest part of the stem not only has the poorest feed value, but is likely to introduce bad ‘microbes’ into your clamp thus causing exactly the losses you are trying to avoid.

Similarly, given the dual risks to Dry Matter of heating and inefficient fermentation, it is sound common sense to protect silage with an additive designed to tackle both problems. For added convenience also check can the additive be used across all three silage crops, grass, wholecrop and maize.

That way anything not used on one crop can be used on the next thus saving time and money. Do make sure to order enough as some farmers run out and have the last few loads going into the pit untreated.

This is a real problem with higher Dry Matter crops because the top of the clamp suffers the most.

By the way, a good additive such as Ecosyl should also have a shelf life of two years so better to have slightly too much for this season than too little leading to some mediocre winter feed.

There are plenty of other important steps to making the most of the silage you make in the rest of 2019. Including cutting crops at the optimum stage, wilting grass to the optimum %DM and effective clamp consolidation and sealing.

Many of these hints sound all too obvious to auld hands at silage making, but the secret is knowing how to implement them well!

For details of the helpful free Volac Cut to Clamp silage audit tel; 07713 197084 or e mail me ken.stroud@volac.com