Timing really is everything with silage quality
Many dairy farmers around the country will have their first cut silage in the pit at this stage. Others may find themselves checking every weather forecast available in a bid to find a window of opportunity start cutting.
In Kerry, last week required a snatch and grab approach as mowers and harvesters tried to work around the intermittent showers. It was either this or wait and take a chance on the weather improving. However, every week you wait, the silage crop ages and the quality declines.
The quality of the grass at harvesting determines the quality of the silage. High quality silage depends on the stage of grass growth, which is inversely related to yield.
For example, one study has shown that a cut of silage, taken in early May resulted in high grass quality with 25pc crude protein (CP) and 75pc digestibility (D-value). Unfortunately, however, the yield was only 3t of dry matter (DM).
By waiting two weeks the yield increased to 6t DM, but quality was now 18pc crude protein and 68pc digestibility.
By the end of May the yield had increased further to 8t DM, but grass only had 12pc crude protein and 60pc digestibility. A similar study compares yield against dry matter digestibility (DMD) as outlined in the table, and sees a huge 5.4pc fall in DMD between May 29 and June 5. So, in essence, timing is everything.
My renewed interest in silage quality is actually driven by the abolition of milk quota. This will be the first autumn with no restrictions on milk production except for the price being paid. Many farmers will use this opportunity to create decent incomes for later on in the year.
However, will milking on and exploiting the opportunity to increase the herd's days in milk come at a cost?