2 November 2001

No additive used in half first-cut silage

By Richard Allison

MORE than half of first cut silage is made without an additive and there is a continuing trend away from purchased concentrates towards mixed forage rations, according to a recent survey.

The aim of the Biotal sponsored survey, conducted by Harper Adams College was to establish the extent of silage additive use and the relationship between milk yield, purchased feeds and forage, says the firms technical manager John Bax.

Of the 127 producers questioned, 72% reported an average milk yield rise of 530 litres a cow over the past three years. This was achieved despite only modest rises in purchased concentrate use.

"The continuing improvement of cow genetic merit and better forage use allows producers to increase herd performance without feeding more purchased compound," he says.

But, ABNs ruminant specialist Duncan Rose stresses seasonal factors also affect concentrate use. The 12-month rolling average for concentrate use on 800 farms supplied by the company is 0.23t a cow higher this July than the same time last year, says Mr Rose.

This is backed up by latest ADAS Milk Cheque figures which show the 12-month rolling average for concentrate use in August is 0.32t a cow higher than last year.

Increasing concentrate use is due to forage shortages and many producers having more stock to feed, says Mr Rose. "In addition, many herds are currently below quota and are pushing for yield by feeding more purchased compound."

Another finding from the survey is that many producers do not use silage additives, says Mr Bax. "Nearly half use no additive for first cut grass silage."

But Kite Consultings Tim Davies believes silage additives are not essential for all crops. "It is farm specific with additive being more important when ensiling old pastures in difficult conditions where fermentation is likely to be poor."

Mr Bax agrees silage additive use tends to be weather dependent. "But many producers are still missing out on the benefits of using additives which include improved dry matter intakes."

Extensive work on additives by Kingshay proves that well made silage in good weather is as good as silage with an additive, says the organisations Duncan Forbes.

Mr Davies believes silage additives are only needed in high forage systems, which rely on maximising silage intakes. This year, only a small proportion of tested silage has been badly fermented suggesting many producers are good at judging when to use an additive.

The survey also shows many producers are now feeding complementary forages, says Mr Bax. More than one-third of producers have grown whole-crop silage this year, higher than anticipated.

"This trend will continue next year when lower cereal prices are predicted, squeezing arable margins. An alternative to selling grain is to sell standing crops to livestock producers for ensiling or crimping."

Mr Davies agrees that feeding mixed forages increases cow intakes, but some forage crops are not a cost-effective solution, he warns. "There are many examples of pea and bean silage being made badly resulting in expensive poor quality feed." &#42

DAIRY FEED TRENDS

&#8226 Less purchased feed?

&#8226 More home-grown forage.

&#8226 Low silage additive use.

Over half of dairy producers do not use silage additives for first cut, says John Bax.