Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 11 December 2016

Focus on quality not quantity

Published 06/05/2015 | 02:30

With increased grass output, Neil Boland has seen big changes in his approach to silage making.

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"Ten years ago we would have been leaving the silage cutting until late June to maximise the bulk of grass that we were putting in the pit," says the Sligo farmer.

"But I began to realise that getting 16 bales to the acre was no benefit if my cows were still going to be thin in the spring.

"Now I'm making closer to six bales an acre, but the drymatter digestibility (DMD) is about 10pc higher. My cows, if anything, are getting too fat, and I have to restrict the silage.

"I'm using it over a shorter period, because my grazing season has been extended. I spent only €1,000 on meal during the winter, compared to nearly €5,000 back in 2012. Yes, that was after the real bad silage, but I'm also carrying a heavier stocking rate now."

Neil has also started baling more of his silage instead of pitting it all) since he switched his focus from quantity to quality.

Effluent

"We're aiming for silage around 75DMD, so we need to cut it in May. To do that, we need really productive pastures that are growing plenty of grass in the spring.

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"This, in turn, creates a requirement to wilt for 24 hours to reduce the amount of effluent that comes out of such lush grass. We're lucky that we have our own machinery [between three brothers] so we're very flexible.

"That also allows me to use the silage cutting as a way of managing my grass rotation. If the grass is getting ahead on any field, we can just take it out of the rotation as silage. The only drawback of this is that you need up with a lot of little cuts.

"That's why I find myself making more baled silage now," he says.

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