Making quality silage is always a key component to quality nutrition and managing overall feed costs. Rarely, however, has it been more important to ensure forage qualities and quantities are sufficient to ensure additional costs are mitigated as much as possible this year. Last years seasonal grass silage averages (shown below) are typical of what was broadly speaking a good forage growing season. Volumes were strong and energy levels whilst not setting any records, were ok. Protein on the other hand was very low, particularly in the earlier cuts which challenged milk yields and increased supplement costs.
SO WHAT CAN WE LEARN FOR THIS SEASON?
1. Dry Matter
A higher dry matter (32% – 35% DM) should help intakes and rumen health which is key to achieving a high milk from forage, the risk is cows sorting for concentrates and clamp stability. Using SilaGuard 50 silage inoculant will help achieve a good front end fermentation and backend stability along with thorough rolling and sealing. Regularly pushing the mix up will help reduce ration sorting and improve feed consistency and rumen health.
This will create a dilemma for many farmers this season, quantity or quality! Fibre is negatively correlated with energy, therefore the longer you leave to cut, you may get more quantity but will reduce energy and due to high fertiliser prices, many farmers will be looking for a large first cut to dilute the costs. Be careful, full clamps will be essential this winter, but getting a quality first cut in the bank will help make the most of a higher milk price.
Lower protein diets are beneficial to the cow, the environment and the bank balance, but low protein silages may force farmers into increasing supplementation costs if they can’t supplement a large proportion of their rumen protein requirement through forage. Closely monitor nutrient applications this season to ensure silages have every chance to delivery higher protein levels and mitigate supplement costs.
Quality silage protocols apply now more than ever, cut early (but not too early !!), quick wilt with a wide swath, thin layers in the clamp and roll well, ensure a good seal, and use SilaGuard 50 to help retain as many nutrients as possible. Many farmers will be looking at using less fertiliser this season, at current market prices, 1% decrease in silage protein could cost 5 pence/head/day. Reducing silage intake by 1kg dry matter could cost over 30 pence/head/day to make up with purchased feeds. Cost management is of course key, but be careful of cutting too much this summer, as it may cost even more when winter comes!
For more information and advice on maximising this silage season, please speak to your NWF Sales Specialist, view our Silage Additive Range or get in touch on 0800 756 2787.