10 May 1996


The 17th annual British Grassland Society National Silage Competition attracted 1200 entrants. Jonathan Riley profiles the three winners

THIS years winner of the British Grassland Societys National Silage Competition is Will Taylor of Kircubbin, Northern Ireland.

Now into its 17th year, the competition was run in association with Kemira Fertilisers, ADAS and SAC and attracted 1200 entrants from 70 local grassland societies.

Three judges – Roger Chesher, Kemira Fertilisers, Bruce Cottrill, ADAS and 1995 winner, Tom Tudor – visited finalists from nine regional finals to assess all aspects of silage making and use on farm.

Roger Chesher says: "The emphasis was firmly on efficient silage making and use of high quality silage combined with a responsible and practical attitude towards safety and pollution control."

"High quality silage is a prerequisite but silage analysis accounts for only 30% of the marks. The majority of marks go towards silage making and feeding with 20% awarded for management of effluent, farm waste, safety, welfare and overall impression," says Mr Chesher.

Winning finalist Will Taylor farms 77ha (190 acres) of grass and 4ha (10 acres) of maize. His 132 pedigree Holstein Friesian cows, 135 followers and 54 bull beef are tightly stocked but average 6747kg at 4.15% fat and 3.28% protein.

Silage making starts in the first week of May with about 47ha (116 acres) used for first cut.

Contractors using a self-propelled precision chop harvester are brought in after the grass has been mown by the Taylor family and each cut takes about two days.

Last year first cut began on May 6, followed by a second cut of 44ha (108 acres) in mid June and then a third cut of 40ha (100 acres) at the end of July. Nitrogen use was 270kg/ha (216 units/acre) and 1500t of silage were produced in total.

"We usually go for a fourth cut," says Mr Taylor, "but last year that was impossible."

"However, cows were out at grass much longer which meant we didnt have to dig into the silage too deeply too soon," he says.

"We achieved all of our main objectives last year which are to make sufficient silage with an ME of 11.5, at a pH between 3.8 and 4 and a dry matter of 30% to 35% across all cuts."

Using a diet feeder, silage is mixed in a ratio of 75% grass to 25% maize with straw plus a 26% protein concentrate. Higher yielders get extra concentrates in the parlour and about 1.32t of concentrate is fed a cow a year which equates to 0.2kg of concentrate a litre of milk produced. Margin over purchased feed is £1481.

The judges were impressed by the way Mr Taylor had developed the farm to keep abreast of technology within the constraints of quota and high input prices. Mr Taylors awareness of the industry as a whole and his attitude towards the production of premium grass and silage fed in a simple, well planned and flexible system were the factors that narrowly pushed runner-up David Davies into second place.

Mr Davies runs 69 pedigree Holstein Friesian milkers plus followers on his 40.5ha (100-acre) all-grass farm in Dyfed. In addition the farm supports 300 lambs on tack which are out-wintered to graze excess grass.

Silage making began on May 9 1995 with the first cut of 34ha (84 acres) producing 500t. Second and third cuts together produced a further 500t and nitrogen use was 282kg/ha.

Silage is stored in two indoor clamps and fed in a covered passageway.

Silage and grass produced 4409kg a cow from 1.55t of concentrates fed in parlour to give a margin over purchased feed of £1650.n

Above right: Roger and Elizabeth Comber, who grow 110ha (275 acres) of grass and 18ha (45 acres) of maize at Manor Farm, Selham, W Sussex, received a special commendation in the competition.

Will Taylor, who grows 77ha (190 acres) of grass and 4ha (10 acres) of maize for his 132 pedigree cows, 135 followers and 54 bull beef at Kircubbin, N Ireland, won this years BGS National Silage Competition.

Above left: David Davies, Gwarffynon, Silian, Lampeter, was the second place winner.