Make the right call this silage season

CHOOSE NOW: Farmers are being urged to assess the best way of making silage to suit their operations.

DAIRY farmers will need to restock their silage storages and hay sheds after a dry autumn in some areas.

Indications are that we may be heading into a poor late spring, which means we need to make the most of any good spring growth this year.

If the El Niño does eventuate, the upside is that we will most likely have enough fine weather breaks to harvest well-made silage and hay.

However, farmers will now be faced with another quandary. Do they make a bulk amount of silage of poorer quality or less silage of higher quality and/or do they buy in hay?

There are no right/wrong answers to these questions but think about some of these considerations.

Many farmers will chase high yielding crops to rebuild silage storages, as has always been the case following a long dry period or drought.

This is fine if you are looking to stick away silage of medium to low nutritive value.

This silage will test under 10 mega joules of metabolisable energy per kilogram dry matter (MJ ME/kg DM or ME), under 10 to 12 per cent crude protein (percent CP) and over about 55 per cent neutral detergent fibre (per cent NDF).

This silage has a limited role due to its lower feed value.

It can only be fed in relatively small amounts without affecting milk production, so other higher quality feeds need to make up the bulk of the diet if milk production and cow condition are to be looked after.

It is suitable for late lactation, low producing cows and dries.

Some farmers, having made lower yielding, high quality silage, have been surprised at how well the cows have milked, and will lift production if enough is fed.

This is not surprising because this silage is at or near grazing height pasture and can test over 11.0 ME, over 16 per cent CP, and below 55 per cent NDF.

The earlier the pasture is cut, the more leaf and less reproductive tillers it will have compared to heavier cuts usually shut up for much longer or pushed too far with  nitrogen.

In good silage making conditions, pasture silages can be attained with over 12 ME, over 25 and about 35 per cent NDF. Where does your silage normally sit? Can you do better?

Let’s look at some other important factors when deciding to go bulk or quality.

Look at the paddocks after the heavy crops come off. They will be yellow, have a lot of bare ground between ryegrass plants and take a long time to regrow.

This is because a major guideline for maintaining a dense high quality pasture has been broken.

The pasture has grown well past three green living leaves and sunlight has not reached the base of the sward.

Result: new leaves cannot reach sunlight, no new tillers generated, existing daughter tillers weakened or died off, aerial tillering meaning tillers hung out to dry – all leading to the yellow pasture picture described above that will take several rotations to thicken up again.

Pasture harvested at or just before canopy closure will be about half the yield as much traditionally harvested silage.

This silage will be as high a quality as possible from ryegrass and may have just over two or just under three green leaves, depending on cultivar, nitrogen use and moisture.

Contractors hate harvesting these lower yields for obvious reasons but you are paying the money for a high quality product.

However, to be fair, they are equally entitled to charge slightly more due to the costs involved to cover the ground with mowers, tedders and rakes, and farmers should still be ahead harvest cost-wise versus income from this silage.

It is possible still to put away the same total tonnes of silage as achieved by heavy yielding paddocks.

This is achievable through more area at four weeks compared to half the area at eight weeks. This maintains grazing pressure which maintains pasture quality, results in higher quality silage and actually usually results in more total spring growth.

A win, win, win situation.

Look at these short lockup paddocks once silage is removed.

They should look a similar colour, or only slightly a lighter green colour, compared to a timely and well grazed paddock.

Regrowth will be dense, quick and more area available since most clumps will come back as high quality and most will be grazed next rotation. 

Story courtesy of Agriculture Victoria, Ellinbank.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=30023

Posted by on Sep 13 2019. Filed under News, Rural News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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