7 April 2000

Sky-high cost of complacency in UK

COMPLACENT silage management is costing UK livestock producers millions of £.

There is still a lot of scope for improvement in silage management, warns Roger Wilkins, head of station at IGER North Wyke, Devon.

"Attention to preventing clamp losses is less now than it was 10 years ago, despite the need to cut purchased inputs," he said.

Speaking at the British Grassland Societys national silage competition awards in London, Prof Wilkins identified four key factors which he claimed would help many producers improve silage quality.

"Choose the right growth stage to cut your grass, fill the silo rapidly and use good sheet management to restrict heating losses. It is also important to base your feeding policy on good silage analysis and exploit the scope to make savings where possible," said Prof Wilkins.

Lower livestock and milk prices underlined the need to reappraise the contribution made by silage, he added. "Milk Marketing Board studies in the 80s showed silage was being used more to substitute for grazing than for concentrate feed. Silage was also commonly used as a buffer feed throughout the grazing season but that often simply substituted higher cost silage for lower cost grazing."

The challenge ahead, he argued, was to derive systems for 12-month feeding which make the best complementary use of grazed grass and other feeds including grass silage. Low levels of radiation, giving potential mid winter grass yields of about 10kg DM/ha a day compared with 100kg/DM/ha in spring, emphasised the need for feeds other than grazed grass to provide the basis for diets for at least one third of the year. Much of that should be supplied by well made and efficiently stored grass silage produced within an efficient grazing system, said Prof Wilkins. &#42

TIPS FOR TOP SILAGE

&#8226 Cut at right stage.

&#8226 Fill silo rapidly.

&#8226 Good sheet management.

&#8226 Silage analysis.