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Make The Most Of Late Season Silage

26 August 2011
EBLEX

UK - Beef and sheep producers should take advantage of good autumn grass growth wherever they can find it this season to bolster winter forage stocks seriously affected by the one of the driest springs in more than a hundred years.

Particularly so given the impact the notably cool June and July weather seems certain to have on this year’s maize crop, not to mention straw shortages and the prospect of another winter of high concentrate prices.

This is the timely advice from EBLEX – the industry body for English beef and lamb levy payers – who stress that palatable and nutritious grass silage can be made throughout September and into October in most years providing sufficient care is taken.

Later silage cuts tend to have higher dry matters than earlier season crops, making the exclusion of air through consolidation far more difficult. Combined with the fact that they are invariably also lower in sugars, this means good lactic acid fermentations leading to stable silages are much more difficult to achieve.

Well-wrapped, high density big bales – chopped if possible to improve consolidation – are recommended for the best results. As well as being the most cost-effective way of conserving relatively light autumn grass crops, big bales also avoid the need to break existing clamp seals and risk compromising the quality of silages already made.

Where soils are suitable and stock access is good later into the season, those particularly short of forage should consider applying a small amount of nitrogen in early September to boost late season grass supply for both grazing and conservation.

It is vital not to compromise liveweight gains from grass in the autumn by shutting up too much ground for silage. After all, saving forage for strip grazing in the late autumn and early winter will reduce the conservation need and can cut forage costs by around six pence per kg of DM.

EBLEX provides the following guidelines for late-season big bale silage making, emphasising the critical importance of minimising the risk of listeria development wherever the silage is intended for sheep feeding:

  • Avoid soil contamination by setting mowers and pick-up reels sufficiently high
  • Achieve the best wilt possible, aiming for 35-40 per cent dry matter
  • Consider using an inoculant additive to drive rapid and stable fermentation
  • Employ the highest bale density setting and net wrap to speed-up baling
  • Wrap within two to three hours using six layers of a quality 55-70 per cent pre-stretched film
  • Handle, stack and store bales carefully to avoid accidental, bird or rodent damage.

Detailed advice on all aspects of silage making, together with forage stock estimation, analysis interpretation and other options for addressing winter forage shortfalls are available free of charge to levy payers in BRP manual five: Making grass silage for better returns. Available at www.eblex.org.uk, by e-mailing [email protected] or by calling 0870 241 8829.

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