Beef: A clean pit face reduces the risk of mouldy silage
Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30
As I checked my old diary for a misplaced telephone number I was reminded that this time two years ago I was in northwest France, as part of the IFA delegation sourcing hay at the peak of the fodder crisis.
I don't wish to remind farmers of that bleak period but as I travel throughout the country it is great to see silage stocks now replenished on most farms. On many farms there are large excesses of pit and bale silage. Barring any unnatural weather patterns, this silage will be stored until feeding next winter.
However, as I have written before, 2014 wasn't a vintage year for silage quality, with disappointing results for dry matter, energy levels, preservation and mineral content. Unlike a fine wine or whiskey, this silage won't improve in storage between now and its consumption date.
With the grazing season now in full swing, any cattle that remain indoors are on finishing diets that include little or no grass silage.
So many silage clamps are now temporarily redundant, but this silage is still a highly valuable feed and every effort should be made to preserve and retain it in its best form for feeding next season.
Given the risks that are present for forage deterioration, it is important that the pit face is cleaned prior to closing, ideally using a sheer grab. This will remove the loose material that is highly susceptible to secondary fermentation and leads to mould formation.
It is these moulds that have the potential to create huge problems in the silage clamp, which can multiply over the summer and subsequently at feeding stage.
While not being the easiest of tasks, especially without a sheer grab, and being well down the list of priority jobs at this time of year, cleaning the face of the pit will prevent tonnes of feed from wasting. If the silage has a fairly average drymatter of 25pc, there is less need to pull plastic over the pit face. Simply cutting the face clean and leaving it exposed will suffice until first cut silage is put up against it.