With the 2020 drawing to a close, now is the time to reflect on how successful it was and where changes and improvements can be made moving forward to increase production and the quality of forage produced, to allow feed cost savings and improve profitability.
Many of the answers will be found by looking closely and critically at your bunkers/silos
Are your bunkers/ silos full enough?
The starting point to producing more from forage is to make more, whilst ensuring it is of the highest quality. It is pointless, producing more silage if feed value is low.
Planning is essential, take stock of all forages produced – grass, maize and wholecrop etc. and compare them to the targets you set. Did you produce enough silage, were your bunkers/silos full and was the silage made of sufficient quality?
To drive more production from forage, you should be looking to increase the silage proportion of the ration to at least 50-60%. If you are going to go through the winter feeding less than this start thinking now about the cost-benefit of increasing production from forage and the plans you need to put in place to achieve this.
What is your silage quality like?
Have you produced the high quality silage required to drive more production from silage? Getting your silages analyzed will provide you with a great deal of information showing where you have achieved goals and where you can improve.
Taking grass silage as an example, Metabolising Energy (ME) is something you should focus on. You should be able to achieve an average of above 11.0 MJ/kg DM with grass silage with no more than 1MJ variation between different cuts. A more significant variation will impact yields and is a result of the cutting intervals being too long. Moving to a multi-cut system will improve energy content without compromising yield
What about the dry matter? If you want a dry matter of 30-35% to maximize intake potential while minimizing losses due to poor compaction. If grass silage is too dry, consider how many times it was moved between cutting up and picking up. Many crops need less tedding than people think.
Next look at NDF which should be as close to 45% as possible. If NDF is higher, the grass was probably too mature when harvested and will be less digestible.
Reviewing your analysis will give some good steers for improving your silage making process to increase production from forage.
How well did you pack and seal your silage bunker/ silo?
Look at the Bunker/Silo face. How much silage waste is there? A layer of waste on the top and shoulders is a clear sign of poor sheeting and inadequate weighting down. You don’t have to accept this waste, so think about how you could sheet down better.
How dense is the face? If you can easily push your finger into the face, then the crop was not consolidated enough, and you will see spoilage and the crop heating.
Are there random hot spots? Heating silage is another sign of poor consolidation.
Poor silage is a huge cost and reduces how much gets fed so plan to minimize waste next year through a better silage-making approach.
How stable is your silage bunker/silo?
As soon as a bunker/silo is opened, you introduce air which can encourage yeasts and moulds leading to wastage and heating. Silage heating and waste can be significantly reduced by following the steps below:
- Use a forage inoculant design to treat the forage you are ensiling and one that is proven to reduce wastage and heating. Also make sure independent trial data backs the inoculant claims
- Seal the bunkers well including the walls with ideally a proven oxygen barrier system
- Ensure the silage is packed into the bunker/silo at the correct density and when feeding out, use a silage defacer or a block cutter. Only moving the sheet back far enough for the silage you will use.
- Check bunker/silo regularly for sheet damage, where damage has occurred re-seal with oxygen barrier patch tape.
Armed with your answers to these questions and an honest assessment of your silage quality and bunker/silo management, you can identify areas where improvement are required ensuring a boost in production from silage.
For more information on the topics covered, please contact one of our experts.