Farmers should be prepared to cut grass silage earlier this season to maintain silage quality after the unprecedented winter growth.
This is the message from Hugh Frost, product and technical manager at Mole Valley Forage Solutions, who says careful monitoring and strategic cutting will be vital this silage-making season to ensure forage quality is maintained and milk from forage is maximised.
In fact, Mr Frost warns farmers may have to take the first cut between two and three weeks earlier than usual.
“High winter carryover means monitoring early season grass growth will be vital as it will be quick to get away and go past peak quality as soon as it warms up,” he warns.
Product and technical manager, Mole Valley Forage Service
He adds: “Cutting at the right time is essential, because if you leave it too long grass quality will be compromised in subsequent cuts.
“Also, think about cutting frequency. The best grass managers cut every five weeks for optimum quality.”
The fact grass has continued to grow and mature over the winter also means the first cut may be lower quality this season, placing a greater emphasis on producing quality second and further cuts, he warns.
“Whatever the year, it makes sense to optimise quality at every cut, rather than accept a decline after first cut.
“Just raising the metabolisable energy (ME) of fresh grass from 10.5 MJ/kg dry matter (DM) to 11.0 MJ/kg DM for 4t DM/acre will produce an extra 2,000 MJ ME, which equates to an extra 370 litres of milk.
“Think about how you can improve clamp management and sward quality through reseeding and targeting of nutrients.”
Mr Frost says if soil tests haven’t already been carried out they should be done after first cut and shortfalls should be addressed for subsequent cuts.