Slow growth in June due to soil moisture deficits, resulted in some people grazing fields destined for second cut silage. In other areas, growth has continued at normal levels and will be harvested in the next few weeks. For many, a good second cut is essential and a last chance to secure enough top-quality grass silage. It is easier/cheaper to stretch very good silage than dealing with poor silage next winter. High DMD silage consistently returns higher margins over purchased feeds.
Avoid the temptation to chase for a very bulky second cut. Grass is the best forage we have in terms of cost and quality. Whether a grass shortage is due to a cold wet spring, a summer drought, or a tough autumn, having more of a high-quality home-produced silage is critical to keep animals performing.
Second Cut Silage Checklist
- Feed Budget: Now is a good time to do a feed budget of what forage reserves are on farm. There may be a few bales and a third cut made later, but the bulk of the saved forage will be in the yard when second cut is finished. Many people will expect 6 tons/acre of fresh grass (3 tons DM/Ha) from second cut, but the range is variable. Use realistic figures for expected yield.
- Silage Additive: Order your silage additive in advance and be sure to check what additive applicator your contractor has. One of the advantages shown from our GrasZyme Sugarboost independent trials is the 6.1% reduction in ensiling dry matter losses (3 acres more silage for every 50 acres treated). Speeding up fermentation by maximising the amount of lactic acid produced results in a fast pH fall and stable silage.
- Silage Pit Management: Have silage covers and side sheeting ready – are there sufficient tyres and/or sandbags? Build the clamp up in thin layers so that it can be consolidated well. The denser the silage, the less oxygen that can get in. Overlap sheets and weigh down well, particularly along the edges. Silage waste is wasted money!
With children on their summer holidays, there are often more people around the farm when second cut is being made. People get distracted for many reasons and accidents occur. Young children are not aware of the dangers and are hard to see from machinery. Make a plan for the day and ensure children are properly supervised at all times.
After second cut is a great time to address soil fertility on silage ground (if there are no more cuts to be taken). It is time to start replenishing the soil, therefore slurry should be applied as soon as possible.
Chemical fertiliser can be applied 7 days after slurry. If lime is required, don’t wait until later in the year, when quite often ground conditions deteriorate and the job doesn’t get done.
Apply lime 7 days after spreading slurry/Nitrogen (N) fertiliser to prevent N losses. It is best to apply lime when grass covers are low. If yields were disappointing for second Cut, consider the reasons why. Was it due to poor soil fertility and/or do some fields need reseeding with more productive grasses?
If still short on saved forage, it may not be possible to get a third cut or take out many wraps while also building enough grass covers for the autumn. If you act quickly, wholecrop could be an option if there are tillage farms near you. There are many factors to consider – do you have a suitable pit, what equipment does your contractor have, and how will you feed it out?
Cutting wholecrop at the correct stage is crucial. The aim should be to harvest at a dry matter of close to 45% (soft cheddar). Crop moisture losses of 1-2%/day are typical at this stage, so the opportunity for wholecrop can pass quickly. If that happens, you have options, but they are no longer achieving the goal of saving a forage, but more about replacing some of the concentrates required.
We provide the below grain treatment products to ensure that farmers who grow their own grain can preserve and store it conveniently to feed their animals over the winter months.
Ensile-Bio Crimp – Biological Crimped Grain Treatment
Rumate Grain – Alkali Treatment for Grain
For more information contact your local Agritech Sales Advisor.