I hope that this will be a focus of Beef KT groups in the run up to making silage in summer 2018.
Making silage contractors aware of this issue would also hopefully reduce levels of soil contamination in silage this year.
In a lot cases, the practice of land rolling silage fields has to be sacrificed by the 'time poor' farmer.
Provided rolling is carried out at the correct stage of grass growth so as not to damage the grass plant and is used as a method of levelling the field but not compacting the soil, ash contents in silage can be vastly reduced.
Silage making is not a cheap exercise when fertiliser costs, high machinery/ contractor charges and in a lot of cases land rental costs are all factored in. Every effort should be made to reduce unnecessary losses during ensiling. To do this, the primary aim is to produce a stable, well fermented forage with a pH of 3.8 - 4.1.
Given the reliance on stable weather conditions at the time of harvest to maximise grass sugar levels and the fact that the Irish weather is so unpredictable, a lot of consideration should be given to the use of an appropriate additive.
Reputable brands of silage additives can play a key role in improving fermentation, lowering dry matter losses and improving digestibility.
While they will add to the cost of silage making, in the overall scheme they provide an excellent return.
There is ample time between now and your first cut silage date to discuss the option of silage additives with your supplier and contractor.
This is not a topic that should be first discussed on the day of broken weather when the harvester is about to enter the silage field.
Put simply, cutting date is the biggest determining factor in the resulting silage energy and protein level.
Observing grass covers and growth stage of the plant are the most accurate indicators as to when grass should be cut as opposed to working off a traditional target date for harvesting.
Using the grazing principles, harvesting lighter covers will ensure better quality, faster regrowth and an increase in the overall dry matter produced per hectare.
All beef farmers should target to make grass silage with a minimum of 70pc dry matter digestibility, pH 3.8 - 4.1 and ash contents below 7.5pc.
Usually at this time of year excess stocks of fodder beet, maize silage and hay, straw etc are available throughout the country.
Obviously this year is an exception with most excess fodder stocks well depleted before Christmas.
A lot of fodder beet remains to be harvested, so this is one feed that should be available if required.
In the main growing regions, beet is currently trading at an average of €45 - €50 per tonne, excluding delivery.
Gerry Giggins is an animal nutritionist based in Co Louth
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