Dairy farmers warned not to cut silage acreage to save cash

Farmers should prepare for the worst by adding an extra 20% of grass to their feed budget, writes Graham Ragg, senior agronomist and product manager for Mole Valley Farmers.

Plenty of silage carry over from last year’s bumper season may mean some farmers are tempted to reduce silage acreage this year to cut costs, but they could be playing a dangerous game.

Cutting back on silage acreage may bring short term cost savings, but in the long term it could add costs if we get another summer like 2012 where farmers were forced to buy in feed to make up for a shortfall.

Always err on the side of caution and add 15-20% on to what you need.

Graham Ragg
Graham Ragg
Senior agronomist and product manager
Mole Valley Farmers

See also: Top tips on preparing silage

Those farmers who do have a fair bit of silage left may want to try and maximise the quality of the silage they make this year.

On the whole, last year’s silage was 0.4-0.5MJ ME/kg DM lower than the year before, so think about how you can balance it with making higher quality grass silage this season.

Obviously targets will be farm specific, and will depend on forage stocks and production aims.

For those looking for quality, aim to maximise the amount of acres taken for first cut, as this cut will generally yield the best quality.

A spin-off from doing this is it will mean stock is grazed more intensively, which will help regrowths and use.

Also, avoid the temptation to reduce costs by reducing fertiliser application at first cut, as spring application will bring the best response.

Weeds will also reduce silage feed value and palatability, so apply a broad-spectrum herbicide at least 28 days before first cut when docks are dinner-plate size and have not seeded.