One of the biggest challenges facing Irish farmers is being able to feed stock in a way that will give the biggest return on investment. As a standalone feed, silage is expensive to produce, and when a land charge is factored in, first cut silage is now costing in the region of €300 per acre to grow and ensile. It is therefore most important that the desired level of silage quality is achieved as often as possible.
Maximising silage quality has never been more important for Co. Tipperary farmer, Albert Purcell. Albert is a beef and tillage farmer who up until recent years, placed more attention on making quantity versus quality silage. As a result, silage quality and animal performance was poor, leading to an over reliance on purchased concentrates.
With the help of Agritech’s Technical Nutritionist, Bil Ryan, Albert put a plan in place to overcome these challenges. He now gives close consideration to reseeding with good quality grass seed, careful management of the silage pit and using a good quality silage additive.
WATCH ALBERT’S STORY BELOW
Reseeding with quality grass seed
Pastures can lose quality as they get older, and maintaining a high percentage of perennial ryegrass in the sward is crucial in order to maximise output from the forage. A grass sward containing 100% perennial ryegrass will grow up to 3t DM/ha more than a sward containing 15% perennial ryegrass and it also produces a higher feed quality, thereby increasing animal performance, i.e. milk output and daily live-weight gain.
Bil’s advice to farmers for optimum germination and a successful reseed is achieving a properly prepared seedbed. Applying appropriate nutrients will also help ensure optimum germination and adequate fuel to sustain the new reseed through the winter ahead. At index 3, applying at least 3 bags of 10.10.20, plus 1 tonne of lime is advisable.
Complementing your preparation efforts with the right grass seed mixture is key. According to Bil, “Agritech’s Tipperary Grass Seed Range has a mix for every situation. Our Tipperary Grass No.5 mixture is designed to produce up to five cuts of high quality forage as zero-grazing or three cuts of silage. Our traditional Tipperary Grass No.3 mixture is ideal for two cuts of silage, plus shoulder grazing.”
Reducing ensiling losses
Reducing ensiling losses is extremely important for improved feed efficiency and greater animal performance. Following the pit management practices outlined below will help;
- Prepare pit well in advance of the expected harvest date; wash out pit and identify any leaks, cracks, and unsealed and eroded joints. Lay down protective layers of sheets inside the pit walls to facilitate an excellent seal at the pit edges.
- The pit should be filled evenly, with each layer of silage no more than 20cm. Each layer should be well consolidated to remove air.
- Use a vacuum sheet as the first sheet and cover by folding in the two side sheets and fitting the final top sheet. Weigh down with tyres to secure the clamp.
Maximising animal performance
Agritech’s GrasZyme SugarBoost Forage Additive has long proven itself as an effective silage preservation aid and has been developed with accelerated fermentation and animal performance as the primary focus. According to Bil, “the ultimate aim from the use of a silage additive is to enhance animal performance, deliver more milk and live-weight gain at feed out and increase farm profitability.”
Having undergone numerous trials on dairy and beef research institutes throughout Ireland and the UK, the additive has shown daily milk yield increases of 1 litre, a 0.09% increase in milk protein and 110 grams extra daily live-weight gain.
The technology used in the additive has also been scientifically proven to reduce unnecessary plant breakdown and ensure reliability even in difficult low sugar conditions. Independent trials have shown that in a 500t clamp, GrasZyme SugarBoost retains an extra 30 tonnes of silage and ensiling dry matter losses of 6.1% were also reported from these trials.
WATCH OUR SILAGE PRESERVATION VIDEO BELOW