Start making winter forage plans now

Dairy producers are being urged to assess silage quality and start making forage plans for the winter now, following the prolonged wet period in June.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly at the Royal Welsh Show, experts said the abysmal weather last month had slowed down growth rates and put silage-making up to a month behind schedule.

DairyCo grass value project officer John Owen said: “We have been measuring grass on 12 farms across Wales and have found from the last week of June until now there has been a massive reduction in growth.

“The ground is absolutely waterlogged. And as a result, second-cut silage is anywhere between three weeks and a month late in being harvested.”

He advised producers to get silage analysed – allowing three to four weeks after harvest before doing this – and then to plan ahead for winter feeding, with the aim of securing 50% of winter concentrates now to minimise the impact of rising feed costs.

He added: “I would also advise people to put on nitrogen now, because most of the available nitrogen has been leached out of the soil and there are very little available nutrients still left in the ground.”

Looking ahead to next season, Huw Powell from IBERS at Aberystwyth University, said producers needed to manage grassland carefully to ensure the quality is not affected next year.

“Because fields are so wet they can become damaged by machinery and that will have a knock-on impact on next season – the grass needs good drainage and soil to grow correctly. So how farmers treat the aftermath is important to ensure the sward recovers and doesn’t suffer at re-growth,” he added.

He said this could be achieved by keeping stock off the field for the first couple of weeks post-harvest.

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