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Quick tips for last cut of silage

By Ken Stroud,

Volac NI Silage Specialist

NEVER mind that September is almost gone and you are still at silage saving a final cut! As with the rest of the season keep focused on maximising quality and minimising dry matter (DM) losses.

These extra tonnes of silage in clamp or big bale could be critical to getting your stock through a late spring. Our grandfathers liked that extra link left in the hayshed come late March and the same applies today. Having some silage left and cows at grass is a better ‘problem’ than no silage left and cows not at grass! Or at grass and needing buffer feeding!

Here are four late-cut grass DOs and DON’Ts …

1. DON’T ‘shave’ fields by cutting too low for extra bulk:

This is for several reasons:

The lower part of the stem is less digestible – so has less nutritional value.

The bottom inch or so of the stem is where the plant stores nitrogen, which will buffer the fermentation, opening the door for DM and quality losses.

Leaving a low stubble means the cut grass will be lying closer to the soil surface. This risks soil bacteria getting into the clamp and spoiling the fermentation (soil clostridial bacteria create a butyric rather than a desirable lactic acid fermentation). In contrast, a longer stubble that lifts grass off the soil, helps air to circulate and can speed up wilting.

If grass is cut below the bottom leaf node it seriously impairs its ability to recover and regrow.

2. DO wilt to the correct %DM:

Later grass cuts may be lighter, but the days are getting shorter and cooler with heavy dews, making it more difficult to get the optimum 30 per cent DM content unless it is windy. Speed up wilting times by tedding as soon as possible after cutting and check DM content regularly.

3. DO chop to the correct length:

A shorter chop length, 2-2.5cm, not only helps consolidation – which is particularly important if %DM content is a bit high and there’s a risk of losses from silage heating in the presence of air (aerobic spoilage) – it also helps to release more sugars, which aids fermentation.

4. DON’T neglect a quality additive:

Just because this is a late, late cut does not make it is any less important. As well as improving fermentation, Ecosyl additive from Volac has been shown to halve DM losses, conserve more true protein, improve digestibility and silage intakes. That all adds up to increased milk yield per cow per day. And a better bottom line for you.

Remember, you only treat the number of tonnes you produce, so it is no more expensive than using this proven additive on earlier cuts.

n Volac silage additives are distributed across in NI by John Thompson & Son Ltd, telephone (028) 9035 1321.

n Or for further information contact Volac NI silage specialist Ken Stroud, telephone 07713 197084.

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