Andrew's 10 steps to 80+DMD silage

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

n Make sure you are working with reseeded swards. You're not going to have enough grass to cut at the end of April or early May if you don't have young swards.

• Close up all silage ground after it has been grazed bare the previous October or November.

• Half a bag of urea in early February and just over a bag of Cut Sward (24pc nitrogen) in late March.

• Work with a local contractor. Sometimes we'll take half of the first cut one week and the other half the following week. You need a local guy if you want him to be able to keep coming back to you when you need him.

• The grass is mowed with a mower that spreads it out. We then turn it at least once until I can pick it up and wring it without getting drops coming out of it. I also like to see it get a few hours after it's been rowed up again, because it'll get another bit of drying before being picked up by the harvester. But this is a balancing act because by this stage the grass will have a tendency to start heating in the rows, so getting it into the pit ASAP is also important at this stage.

• I used every type of additive under the sun back in the old days. We always believed that the farmers who were winning silage quality awards had some super-dooper kind of additive in the mix, even though they always claimed that they never used anything. When I finally took their word for it, I discovered that it was totally unnecessary if everything else was done right.

• I don't worry about the chop length, even though I suppose a longer fibre would be better for the rumen.

• I normally do all the rolling in the pit myself, mainly because I have a good loader here from the days when we used to do a lot of grain here. But it means that everything gets really well rolled. I never stop rolling, even if there's nothing coming into the pit. I'm also fussy about keeping grass off the walls around the edges of the pit because it means that the sand-bags are able to do their job better.

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• The pit is always covered the same day. I got rid of tyres years ago when I switched to a light protective plastic gauze that is weighted down with sandbags. It's a great job because it's so light and clean compared to the tyres. You could do it in your Sunday cloths. This means that the contracting crew are happy to give me a hand to cover the pit but it also means that there's no dirt on top of the pit that can get into the silage as the pit is being used.

However, because it is so lightweight, you have to be very particular about having a level and compact pit to cover and that there are absolutely no holes or leaks where air can get in.

One hole results in at least one tonne of silage being lost. That's why I'm killed telling the lads to watch where they are stepping when we are covering the pit.

• We use a shear-grab to empty the pit, even though it is slower than just pulling it out with a rake. It means that we have little or no losses.

Irish Independent

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