14 April 1995

Destroy the swath

GRASS silage need not be nutritionally defective, that is, too wet, too acidic or low in useful protein.

The key to improving its feed value is to lift dry matter to at least 30%. The fastest way to do that is to destroy the grass swath. Com-ments came from Dr Mike Wilk-inson, independent nutritionist.

"Spreading the swath gets the water out of the cut material and restricts fermentation," said Dr Wilkinson. That was good news for the cow because a restricted fermentation produced a high sugar, low acid crop, with a high FME (fermentable metabolisable energy). "This gets the bugs motoring to digest silage as fast as possible."

He said the key to rapid wilting in unpredictable weather was spreading the swath and allowing wind and radiation to take over.

His advice was to: "Mow in dry weather, spread out the crop, leave for a short wilt (up to 48 hours in showery weather, less in dry weather), row up and ensile rapidly in thin layers. Roll while filling the silo, seal completely and feed out with a sharp shear grab."