Cut grass ASAP to make sure of top quality silage
GRASS surplus to grazing will need cutting for silage as soon as possible in much of the country to safeguard quality, but in northern England and Scotland harvest will be later than usual, warn consultants.
Producers who took first cuts early must get out as soon as they can, says south-west based independent consultant Pete Kelly. "D-value will be falling quite fast so grass should come off as soon as possible." He reports that despite the wet June, sugars are not looking too bad.
"It has been cloudy, but cover has been fairly thin, and provided grass can be wilted for 24 hours to secure 25% dry matter or more, there should be no need for an additive."
ADAS consultant Chris Savery would rather wait for a forecast of 24-36 hours of dry weather and secure a wilt than go too soon. "It is better to have a mature silage than a wet, butyric one. When there is a fairly high risk of rain, grass, much of which will be no more than 18% dry matter and some a lot wetter, is better left standing," he says.
"It is far more trouble once it is down on the ground; aim to get it as dry as possible to start with and be prepared to use an effective additive when conditions are difficult."
He says a sugar or acid additive may be best given the wet conditions. But Midlands based consultant Stuart Jones says there is good evidence supporting use of inoculants even in difficult conditions. "Farmers should make an effort to get crops in as soon as possible but with the catchy weather it is best to use an additive," he explains. "Inoculants do work even in difficult conditions, despite what some advisers give them credit for."
BGS grazing consultant Paul Bird urges caution about the amount of silage made.
"Thinking back to May large amounts of silage were cut, in many cases leaving the cows short of grazing for two to three weeks until aftermaths came back into the rotation." Mr Bird advises leaving some grass that can be grazed as a buffer feed, rather than incurring the expense of making it into silage and then having to feed it out again when grazing is short.
In the north and Scotland, cold weather in spring delayed first cut, so consultants reckon second cut will be two to three weeks behind normal.
Lockerbie-based Axient consultant Graham Wilson says aftermaths were slow to recover, and at current growth rates many producers are likely to take second cut in late July and early August.
"Fertiliser is less well taken up in colder weather, so it would be best to get nitrates checked before cutting, particularly if slurry was applied. If the weather remains cold, second cut is likely to be low in sugars, so use of an acid would be prudent."
John Weddell, grassland specialist at SAC Aberdeen agrees with that advice. "Sugars are generally lower at second cut, so acids are a better bet. Although producers who have changed to inoculants are generally unwilling to swap back to acids, it could be worth considering this season." *
• Cut as soon as possible.
• Aim to wilt for 24 hours.
• Use an additive when wet.
• Harvest delayed in north.