Top Tips for Success

11 tips to win the “Bacterial War”, which are the key to successful silage making.

Whether you are looking for high yields per cow, or to maximise silage intakes and get high yields from forage, your cows need grass silage to be palatable with high levels of quality nutrients – and that depends upon your skill and management of the crop?

  1. Concentrate on good ryegrass based swards: Secondary grasses and old pastures have lower yields and sugars, so modify the fertiliser applied if you have to ensile these.
  2. Do not use excess nitrogen: That dark green colour is excess nitrogen that reduces sugar levels. It increases the time and difficulty to get the silage pH to drop and eventually produces toxic and unpalatable by-products. The maximum N is 75-1 05 units per acre depending on the sward and soil fertility for most dairy farms, unless following cereals.
  3. Make full allowance for the nutrient N.P.K value of all slurry applied: and it must be included in the maximum Nitrogen recommended. Avoid contaminating the grass with slurry i.e late applications to bare pasture or leafy swards.
  4. Cut dry: Eight inches of wet grass, cut at 9 am, and bundled into a swath, does not wilt effectively. It is essential to mow when the crop is dry, with no dew or rain on it, i.e. after 12 pm. Make the swath as wide as possible or ted as soon as possible.
  5. Cut high: Leave at least three inches of aftermath, and leave the base rubbish in the sward bottom.
  6. If raking or tedding, set well to avoid ground contact, especially if you have applied slurry and F.Y.M: Soil and slurry are perfect inoculants of the wrong spoilage bacteria. Slurry/soil on wheels in the clamp achieves the same. Do not rake large swaths too far in front of the forager.
  7. Wilt quickly to concentrate sugar: The faster the better, do not wilt for more than 24 hours. 27% dry matter is a good target – essential to reach at least this, if there is a problem such as high N, contamination or low sugars.
  8. Fill fast, but evenly, no air pockets, roll as you fill but minimise length of time exposed to air: i.e. “Dorset Wedge” if possible. Short chopped, thin layers well rolled if dry.
  9. Roll for /2 hour maximum in the evening, sheet down every night: It takes just 20 minutes to use up oxygen in a silo, then a lactic fermentation starts if no more air is getting in.
  10. Don’t roll next morning: It squeezes out carbon dioxide, sucks in fresh air, and restarts the butyric fermentation instead.
  11. Completely seal the silo, and weight down shoulder and top sheets as soon as possible: Lactic acid fermentations do not start until all air has gone – and no more is getting in. Side walls should be sealed before starting.

What is the pay-off for attention to silage detail?

  • Palatable, very low ammonia, high intake, high performance silage.
  • More silage
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