29 March 1996


SPREADING grass makes silaging less dependent on ideal weather according to Somerset farm manager Richard Calver, Milton-Westcombe Farms, Evercreech.

He is now more concerned about tines going through the spreader than the weather for cutting the 4000t of grass silage made each year.

Mr Calver wanted to produce milk as efficiently as possible from the 420 cows, but quota was limiting. He decided to improve milk performance forage and so increase dry matter intakes.

To achieve this high quality, high dry matter grass silage was essential so he began spreading grass after mowing to dry it.

"The investment in the spreading and tedding machine was quite small and when well looked after should last a long time," he says.

Although it also takes an extra man and tractor, fewer loads of grass need to be carted to the clamp.

"The machine must be set right. We try to move 90% of the crop to avoid soil contamination."

He advises avoiding cutting too low for better regrowth.

Mr Calver is convinced that he is correct to do his own silage making and if he used a contractor he would still do his own spreading and tedding.

Spreading the crop results in a lot less damage when it rains than when left in a row he says. When it rains on grass that is spread it stays green even when the neighbours swathed grass has turned yellow, he says.

Initially Mr Calver thought an additive would not be beneficial for drier silage for it would not be needed for fermentation. But spoilage losses at the face convinced him he would need an additive similar to that needed to avoid losses in maize.

There are many additives so its very confusing to choose the right one for a particular type of silage, he adds. He chose a sulphate salt inoculant because it worked to reduce aerobic spoilage on maize and since using it on grass silage less heating is noticed on feeding out.

&#8226 Silage stable when correct additive is used.

&#8226 Less dependent on weather for silaging.

&#8226 Extra labour needed for spreading and tedding.

&#8226 Soil contamination risks.

&#8226 Over-dry crops are difficult to consolidate.

Richard Calver: Spreading grass makes silaging less dependent on ideal weather.