29 September 1995

Dont spurn autumn grass for feed

REASONABLY nutritious bunker and big bale silage can be made from the autumn grass now becoming available.

That is the message from a senior ADAS nutrition chemist for livestock farmers worried about going into the winter with insufficient fodder. Instead of rushing out to buy alternative feeds, Philip Haigh is advising clients to make maximum use of autumn and winter grass.

"In the mid-80s I saw brilliant bunker silage conserved on Dec 8, and equally good big bale material made a few days before Christmas," Mr Haigh says.

Farmers who want to exploit the anticipated flush of autumn grass by turning it into bunker silage should cut and carry direct, and use plenty of formic acid, Mr Haigh says. "With low sugars and falling temperatures there will be little fermentation. The process is more like pickling onions than conserving silage, but the material comes out in excellent condition, just like fresh grass. If surplus grass is made into big bales, it is worth trying to reduce moisture before baling and wrapping."

Though he accepts that many upland farmers are very short of fodder, and some lowland producers have used a lot of silage during the drought, he is not too pessimistic about winter feeding prospects on dairy farms.

"As long as we do not get the monsoon-like rain that so often follows a drought in Britain, there should also be plenty of autumn grass to extend the grazing season. Farmers who took an early first-cut had rain and plenty of sun for their second cuts, so there was a great deal of very good quality silage in store at the start of the drought. Some of this has been fed, but there is still plenty of time to take a late silage cut."