30 June 1995

First-cut yields down

EARLY indications from the few analyses yet complete are that this years first-cut grass silage is variable in quality with yields way down on average.

So to plan next winters feeding programme, now is the time to get first-cut analysed.

"Sampling seems to be a bit slow this year, although we do recommend that samples for analysis are not taken until about six weeks after clamping, when the silage should have become stable," says Peter Griffiths, silage samples co-ordinator at south-west co-op Mole Valley Farmers.

Further north, Mark Harrison, a director of Farmlab, says his firm has handled over 300 first-cut samples to date, many of them from southern England.

These early analyses, including pre-cut grass tests, indicate that the best quality silage was made in week 21 beginning May 22, when a typical sample was just under 25% dry matter, had a crude protein a little less than 14% and an ME of just below 11.

From week 18 to week 23 average dry matters fell from over 30% to under 22%, crude proteins fell from over 15% to less than 13% while MEs fell from over 11 to less than 10.

"Although nutritionally it is possible to provide data from the tests conducted so far, there is evidence that much material is still fermenting. Silage quality and analyses are still likely to chance, particularly with the above and below optimum dry matter silages that have been made this year.

"This could result in considerable nutrient variation and poor keeping qualities once clamps are opened for feeding," says Mr Harrison.