An earlier cut means denser sward
CONSIDER making silage cuts earlier to provide denser aftermaths.
That would allow cows to eat more in each bite, increasing dry matter intakes to support higher yields, SACs David Roberts told delegates at the DRC subject day.
"With present low prices for concentrate and other feeds, silage making policy should be completely geared towards producing good aftermath grazing during May. You need to cut earlier rather than later to achieve better regrowth and denser swards. There can be a big difference," he said.
"But nitrogen application dates mean you cant suddenly cut silage three weeks earlier. In the long-term, however, plan for an earlier, lighter cut and higher quality aftermaths for June and July grazing, and buy in other feeds for winter."
Providing a tall, dense sward could increase cow dry matter intakes, he added. On average, cows eat 0.4g a bite, but in denser swards they can eat 0.5g a bite. Because cows do not take more bites a minute when bites are smaller and it is difficult for them to spend more time eating, this is the best way to influence cow intakes.
A cow grazing for 10 hours a day at 65 bites a minute can eat 15.6kg of DM at 0.4g a bite and 19.5kg at 0.5g a bite. The higher intake could support a higher milk yield or reduce liveweight loss at grass, he said.
But providing a system for high grass intakes could result in poor pasture use, he warned. He recommended integrating cutting and grazing to help provide good quality grazing.