27 February 1998

Early turn-out on silage land

TURNING cattle out early on to land destined for first cut silage will improve quality and regrowth.

Basil Lowman, beef specialist at SAC Edinburgh, advises considering turning cattle out three weeks earlier than usual, onto silage land, then moving them to the main summer grazing area on the normal turnout date.

"Although the Irish advisory service Teagasc found that yield of first cut was reduced by about 15%, its D-value was 2-3% higher. The improved D-value is due to the initial grazing removing dead grass carried over from the previous autumn, producing a thicker, leafier crop.

"In addition, second cut yields increased by 8% after early turnout. This is due to a lighter first cut, which leaves a greener, more dense aftermath which recovers more quickly," he explains.

He suggests that on a one-cut system, the reduction in yield could be minimised by delaying cutting for one or two days. "This will still produce silage with a similar feed value."

Dr Lowman advises turning cattle onto the silage ground about six weeks after T-sum 200 is reached.

&#8226 For more on early turnout for beef cattle see p58.