Multi-cut grass silage 10 point checklist

In December 2017, in partnership with Volac, Germinal conducted a UK silage survey with 187 responses from dairy farmers. 

A number of findings from the survey were significant, and prompted our multi-cut grass silage 10 point checklist to improve the utilisation of silage.

  • 89% of farmers aimed to increase milk from forage whether grazed or silaged

  • 64% thought silage was more important than they had previously believed

With these two statistics in mind, 80% of the dairy farmers surveyed were still taking 3 cuts or less. 

In collaboration with Volac, Germinal advised a 10 point checklist to help further improve these statistics, whilst offering achievable and measurable steps.

Plan ahead

• Consult your contractor or review your own equipment
• Consider clamp capacity and/or bale storage area
• Set targets for timing, tonnage and quality
• Test soils and slurry over the winter period

Reseed to maintain leys fit for purpose

• Maintain high sown species content and ground cover
• Grow mixtures with high yielding varieties, good spring growth and high ME yield/ha
• Only select varieties from Recommended Grass & Clover Lists (RGCL)

Over-winter swards with optimum cover

• Remove autumn grazing stock by end of December with sward height at 4-5cm
• Walk silage fields to check drainage, mole damage and weed content
• Apply slurry into the soil, not onto the sward, to a maximum of 25,000l/ha

Ensure correct crop nutrition

• Avoid heavy slurry applications within 10 weeks of cutting
• Apply any slurry into the soil immediately fields are cleared
• Apply bagged fertiliser as recommended by an agronomist but not exceeding 2 units/acre for each growing day between cuts

Cut early and frequently

• Take first cuts late April - early May (depending on season and location) to maximise ME yield
• Take subsequent cuts at intervals of 4 to 5 weeks to maintain quality
• Mow no lower than 6.5 cm to ensure rapid regrowth

Wilt quickly for optimum dry matter

• Cut early in the day with a mower with an effective integral conditioner
• Ted out the crop within two hours to maximise speed of drying
• Aim to pick up the same day for a target 28 - 32% DM silage

Apply a proven silage additive to improve fermentation

• Because protein and nitrates may be higher – which buffer the fermentation
• Select an additive containing the most efficient fermentation bacteria

Chop long to maintain structural fibre

• Consider a chop length of 5cm or longer for good clamp management
• The typical chop length of a forage wagon can work well with multi-cut

Ensile for the best possible fermentation

• Apply best practice approach when clamping or baling
• Roll or compact to squeeze out air
• Seal effectively to maintain airtight conditions
• Ensile in layers to maximise compaction

Feed fibre as needed to balance rations

• Ensure sufficient ‘scratch factor’ for optimum rumen function
• Consult your nutritionist to maximise value of higher energy grass silage

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