28 March 1997


Farmers now have at their disposal a greater array of equipment and technology to produce quality forage – grass silage, maize or whole-crop – than at any other time in history.

And there has probably never been a time when such reliance was placed on the profitable feeding of home-produced rations. It is a trend set to continue as restrictions on the use of animal protein push up the cost of imported vegetable proteins such as soya.

There is potential to reduce the present £120m-a-year bill for imported protein, but first more research must be done on all aspects of the conservation of crops such as kale, red clover, forage peas and lupins. Replacing only 5% of the land area currently in grass with kale, for example, would grow 80,000t of extra crude protein worth £56m.

Meanwhile, for those who rely on the production of high quality grass silage, this supplement examines the possibility of sampling herbage in the field to determine potential silage quality.

It also takes a look at the latest systems developed for the production of high dry matter silage – those who would advocate extremes of high DM content could glean some tips from methods employed by farmers in Holland.

Square bale silage appears to be gaining in popularity – the system clearly promoted by contractors looking to extend the working season of their balers – and new developments in grass wilting machinery look promising.