Soggy grass will need extra care at harvest
GRAZING difficulties after the wettest April this century have left many farmers with a surplus of wet, low sugar grass that will need care at harvesting to safeguard quality.
ADASs Richard Eaton has been monitoring grass quality in the south-west. "Sugars are certainly lower than at this time last year at 4% or less, and nitrate levels are generally too high."
"Ideally we are looking for 0.05% or below, and only half samples are at this stage."
He says a grass test pre-cutting will provide a useful guide on which to base decision making.
"The grass will ensile well if it is dry enough; sunshine will lift the sugars and a good wilt will increase dry matter and so reduce nitrates and risk of high ammonias.
"The danger is that there is still a lot of moisture in the soil, so we might not get such a good wilt. We need a good spell of dry weather to dry up the surface of the soil, too."
ADASs Chris Savery also cautions against cutting when nitrates are high and soil contamination a risk. "If you harvest when the ground is soaking you are asking for trouble. Grass will get contaminated and no additive can overcome that. Go as soon as you can reliably – working to good silage making practises – to control grass and get something coming back into the grazing rotation."
His colleague Steve Peel also predicts that recent wet conditions will have resulted in low sugar, low dry matter, and high nitrate grass, "A lethal combination for silage."
He also suggests testing the grass pre-cutting, leaving sampling until as close to cutting as possible.
Midlands-based independent nutritionist Stuart Jones suggests that with a lot of wet grass – low in sugars, and high in nitrates – it would be false economy not to use an effective additive. "Think about the value of the crop and cost of the losses if you do not use one."
If there is much mud about contamination will be a risk says Axients Derek Gardner. "A fistful of mud will spoil a cubic metre of silage, and it is not difficult to get a lot of fistfuls of mud on one tyre." *
• Test pre-cutting.
• Avoid contamination.
• May need additive.