19 May 2000

No sense feeding silage while you are making it

By Jeremy Hunt

ONLY make silage out of grass that is surplus to cow requirements, maintain high pasture quality and avoid unnecessary buffer feeding for the most efficient early season grass management.

"Feeding silage at the same time as growing and making silage defies profit logic," MDC grazing consultant Carol Gibson told farmers at a Newton Rigg College, Cumbria, Practice into Profit open day.

Avoid the common trap of allocating too large an area for silage, which can result in a shortage of grazing before aftermaths are ready to graze and necessitate buffer feeding, she said.

"Use the motto shut it up, but dont lock it up. Then, when there is any doubt at all about having enough grazing after the crop has been taken, be prepared to go back into a small area that has been allocated for cutting before actually making silage."

She urged dairy farmers to strip or block graze long grass. When grass is mature it is best to only graze it at night like a crop. It may need to be cut and wilted a little before grazing but this should be avoided when possible to reduce the workload.

May and June grassland management should be based on leaving a maximum of 1800kg DM/ha after grazing paddocks. "When you are leaving more than this and the next paddock to be grazed is longer than the one cows have just left my advice is to skip over into shorter grass or allocate a smaller daily grazing area.

"At 1800kg DM/ha the paddock will have been well grazed and even though there may still be some clumps they will at least have been grazed over." First cut silage should be taken from fields with 3000kg DM/ha and with grazing areas aim for an average cover of 2200-2300kg DM/ha.

SUMMERGRAZING

&#8226 Avoid buffer feeding.

&#8226 Strip graze mature grass.

&#8226 Graze to 1800kg DM/ha.

Feeding silage when making it defies profit logic, Carol Gibson (second left) explains to Newton Rigg visitors.