Farm Ireland

Sunday 20 January 2019

'There is a lake in the middle of my field but I'll cut silage the third week of May'

Eoghan MacConnell

With wet autumn conditions ever more common in the North West, farmers need to seriously consider taking the first cut of silage in May, a Teagasc official has said. 

Tegasc Regional Manager Billy Wilkenson gave the advice to a recent fodder crisis meeting organised by Leitrim IFA’s County Executive in Berrys Tavern in Drumshanbo. 

Mr Wilkenson pointed out that taking an early cut would not only improve the chances of getting a second cut in but also be of assistance to farmers seeking to get slurry out.  He reminded the crowd that “the weather in 2016 and 2017 was pretty bad. Is that going to happen in the future? We don’t know.” 

“I farm on a heavy farm. There is a lake in the middle of my silage field at the moment but I will be cutting silage in the third week of May,” Mr Wilkenson told the gathering. He said he would fertilise immediately after with a view to taking a second cut seven or eight weeks later.  

Mr Wilkenson said if the weather being experienced is going to become a pattern changes will have to be made. 

“If the weather pattern is going to be like that. If that is what is going to develop, and we particularly have very intense rain now. I am in my 60s now and I remember as a child that you would be trying to make hay in the field and it was always persistent rain, it was never too heavy,” he pointed out.  

He said “nowadays that has changed to very intensive heavy showers, heavy rain, it is very wetting and over a short period of time land can be quite unmanageable.”  He noted  “this year a guy who was taking a first cut in May and a second cut in July, he was feeding it in August September.” 

“I would say a lot of dry stock farmers would have to consider looking at taking silage much earlier. Those that are cutting in July will certainly have to close land earlier in Spring time, fertilise, because consistently May and June are the drier months. There is also the issue of getting out slurry, sure that’s a nightmare. It’s an absolute nightmare,” he remarked.  

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“I heard of a cross compliance check down south where the man was asked did he spread slurry on the closed period and he said no. The satellite photograph was put out on the table of the tractor and you could read the reg of it, as I say, in the closed period. So that’s the world that we live in,” he told the gathering.  

“It’s one thing facing into winter having silage stocks low, or lower than you would like, but having full tanks, that’s a nightmare altogether, I think,” Mr WIlkenson said. 

"Looking at maybe taking an earlier cut and taking home the first cut early it might be for consideration,” he added. He believes it would produce better quality silage and make slurry spreading more managable.  

Veterinary Surgeon John Quinn was also concerned about the slurry spreading and the extended period cattle are being housed for.  “This whole thing about slurry, it is going to become as big an issue as fodder scarcity, or a bigger issue,” he remarked. 

In relation to cross compliance, he said, “if there is a problem with slurry I will just speak up and say there is animal welfare issues here. You cannot have cows lying in slurry and then going into calf. The powers that be mightn’t agree with what I am saying here but at the end of the day I cannot walk around and let you have cows lying in six inches of slurry and say wait now till the first of February.”

“That is a serious issue and it is a serious issue too with cows calving and sucking cows and dirty teats and so on. Get it away somewhere, I don’t know what you are going to do to get it away, but don’t forget animal welfare,” he told the gathering. 

“We are getting very close to the first of February and hopefully it is not going to be an issue, but number one is don’t let animals lie in slurry.”  

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