Avoiding damage to pasture is the key to surviving this awful deluge
After a slight increase in soil temperature in the middle of last month, I wrote about how hopeful I was that we had turned a corner.
I naively thought that just one good week would see the challenging times behind us. It certainly lifted farmers' moods and optimism was high, with growth rates of around 100kg DM/ha/day quite common.
It's now only seven weeks later and both cows and farmers are once again struggling, this time with deluges of rain and prolonged wet conditions. Combined with the falls in milk price, 2012 is certainly becoming an emotional, feed and financial roller coaster.
Most farmers are experiencing a free-fall of milk production per cow, loss of body condition score, poor grass quality, low pasture covers, yellowing pastures and poor grass growth rates. In places, this has been compounded by a bid throughout June to aid pasture quality by topping and pre-mowing a large amount of the grazing area, combined with short rotation lengths.
A number of farmers have resorted to supplementing the cows heavily and a common question has been how quickly can you feed silage after ensiling?
When pasture is ensiled, its sugars are converted into lactic acid by bacteria. It's the lactic acid that pickles the pasture and preserves it. Lower dry matter (wetter) silage actually ensiles quicker than high dry matter crops but has a greater risk of being low quality.
Also, crops with higher sugar content will also ensile quicker. Generally crops of 20pc DM take around 8-14 days and 30pc DM take 14-21 days, so generally two weeks is enough.
Another common question is whether there is any benefit, either immediate or long-term, by feeding concentrates in wet weather conditions.