22 March 1996

Wills winning way with silage is about attitude

WINNER of this years British Grassland Societys national silage competition is Northern Ireland milk producer and farmers weekly Farmer Focus contributor Will Taylor of Glastry Farm, Kircubbin, Newtownards, Co Down.

He wins the Kemira Star trophy for 1996 and receives five tonnes of Kemira fertiliser. Runner-up in the competition, run in association with Kemira Fertilisers, ADAS and the Scottish Agricultural College, is Welsh producer David Davies of Gwarffynon, Silian, Lampeter, Dyfed. A special commendation was given to Roger Comber of Manor Farm, Selham, West Sussex.

The BGS national silage competition attracted over 1200 entrants from 70 local grassland societies in the UK. Nine regional finalists were judged.

"Silage analysis accounts for only 30% of marks in the competition so, while high quality silage is a pre-requisite at this stage, it is not the over-riding factor. Most marks go towards silage-making and feeding, and we award 13% for management of effluent, farm waste and safe working practice," said Kemira judge Roger Chesher.

"It was a vintage year for the competition with an outstanding group of finalists, but Will Taylor was clearly the overall winner through his dynamism and attitude toward farming," he said.

Will Taylor, who farms with his wife Cynthia and son Gareth, runs a 81ha (200-acre) all-grass farm, except for 4ha (10 acres) of maize. The land at 18m (60ft) is tightly stocked with 132 pedigree Holstein Friesians plus followers and 54 bull beef. Annual herd yield average is 6747 litres at 4.15% fat and 3.28% protein.

Silage making starts in the first week of May with some 47ha (116 acres) of grass used for first-cut. Last year a further two cuts were taken in mid-June and at the end of July, producing around 1500t in total. Nitrogen use on grass for silage is 270kg/ha (216 units/acre).

"We usually go for a fourth cut," said Mr Taylor, "but that was impossible last year as the grass started to disappear fairly rapidly by mid-summer. However, we had a marvellous back end of the year so the animals were out on grass much longer, which meant that we didnt have to dig into the silage too deeply, too soon.

"Our main objectives for silage are to make enough to last through; to achieve an ME of 11.5; a pH of between 3.8 to 4; and dry matter of 30-35% across all cuts. We managed all of those targets last year."

Using a diet feeder, silage is mixed – in a ratio of 75% grass to 25% maize – with straw and a 26% protein concentrate. High yielders are parlour fed extra concentrates. About 1.32t of cake is fed a cow annually, giving 0.20kg/litre of milk produced. Margin over purchased feed a cow is £1481. &#42

Will Taylor with grass being ensiled to make last years winning silage.