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Silage harvesting is a major cost on Irish farms, therefore it is most important that the desired level of quality is achieved.

Dry Matter Digestibility (DMD) indicates the feeding value of a forage crop. In grass silage, it refers to the percentage of grass dry matter that an animal can digest to support their feed requirements. To make high DMD silage, the grass sward needs to contain a high leaf content. DMD is also linked to harvest date, with research showing that a crop harvested on June 2nd versus a harvest date of May 20th, resulted in a DMD drop of as much as 5%.

Key considerations
Weather will be the main dictating factor with silage harvesting. However, during periods of broken weather, where a window of opportunity appears, avoid delaying harvest. Delaying first cut will cause a large drop in quality and reduce second cut yields significantly.

Grass sugars are the main consideration for crop preservation (Sugar being the food required for fermentation bacteria). The target for good preservation is 3%. Cutting time (early afternoon) and cutting conditions will have the greatest impact on sugar content in grass.

Grass nitrates can affect preservation by increasing buffering capacity. A grass crop will on average use up 2 units of N per day for first cut. Nonetheless, this is only a general rule and should not delay cutting date. Wilting silage to approximately ˃28% will help decrease nitrates.

Wilting is very beneficial to silage preservation where sugars are marginal and/or nitrates remain elevated. The aim should be to increase crop dry matter to 25-30% with pit silage and 30-35% with baled silage. Over wilting can cause issues when feeding out silage, such as heat loss/secondary fermentation.

Using a silage additive

The application of a proven silage additive, such as Agritech’s GrasZyme Sugarboost, at ensiling is a very important part of securing as much of the quality in the winter forage as possible – speeding up preservation and retaining more of the feed value within the pit, alongside less waste/losses.

From a total of 19 independent trials, GrasZyme Sugarboost has proven to deliver:

  • + 1 litre of milk per cow per day and .09% milk protein increase
  • + 110g daily live-weight gain in beef animals
  • 1% reduction in dry matter losses

For further information, contact your local Agritech Sales Advisor.  

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