Open clamp silage, taken as a second cut, has enabled Mr James Kennedy of Ballylintagh, Aghadowey, Coleraine, to increase his dairy cow numbers by more than 30 per cent without spending capital on buildings.
“The quality of the outside silage was every bit as good as that made in the covered silo, and I think it is an excellent way of conserving surplus grass at the back end,” said Mr Kennedy.
Two years ago, because of limited silo capacity and surplus grass, he decided to try the clamp silage technique.
The problem on the Kennedy farm was that the first cut filled the silos and, with grass still growing well, what better way to conserve it and provide valuable extra winter feed than to make silage outside under polythene?
“Grass at the back end cannot be made into good hay,” said Mr Kennedy, “but silage allows you to produce a good quality winter feed despite poor weather at this time of year.”
The extra silage was used to feed 14 more cows – expanding the herd to 54 cows – with little fluctuation in milk yield.
For the past two years it has been on a free-draining part of the yard adjacent to the silos.
In the first year there was some waste towards the sides of the clamp which was overcome last season by building a two foot high wall of farmyard manure along the sides – to keep the polythene in close contact with the grass and ensure a good seal. Rushes thrown on top kept the polythene in place.
Since taking the first silage cut, Mr Kennedy has refertilised with 3cwt Two Sward per acre for his second cut. A total of 16 acres will be cut – most of it to be made outside.
Mr Kennedy’s son, William, who was top student at Greenmount Agricultural College, this year has returned home to take up farming with his father.
He has a wide knowledge of modern farm techniques and hopes to put many of them into practice.