Farmers face opening silage pits of 'extremely variable' quality

Silage quality is extremely variable
Silage quality is extremely variable

Many farmers are facing into the winter with fodder that is of questionable quality, according to silage analysis results.

Test results from a number of different bodies indicate that silage quality is extremely variable, with dry matter values generally back by at least a point on last year to an average of around 67 DMD.

Conor Butler of FBA Laboratories said the 2,000-plus silage samples analysed by the firm to date were a "mixed bag". While he said the expectations of farmers who cut silage in early summer were quite high, he pointed out that low DMD and elevated ammonia levels were a problem in many instances.

Mr Butler said that the good weather in May meant that many silage crops matured quicker than normal and farmers cut early. However, this did not leave enough time for the fertiliser to leave crops and the resulting silage has ammonia levels of up to 25pc of total nitrogen when the figure should be in the region of 10pc.

High ammonia levels in silage makes the crop extremely difficult to manage as the face of the pit goes off very quickly, Mr Butler explained.

He attributed this year's reduced silage quality to the poor fertility of Irish soils as a result of low P and K, and pH levels.


Mr Butler pointed out that just 9pc of soil samples tested by FBA Laboratories had pH values in optimum range of 6.3 to 6.5. Donal Mullane of Teagasc in Clonmel said silage analysis results from a number of client farmers around Tipperary ranged from 62 DMD to 72 DMD and average 67 DMD.

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He said the DMD values at the lower end of the spectrum were generally from crops cut during the bad weather in the first 10 days in June.

Mr Mullane advised farmers to test their silage again as they move back opened pits or started to feed from new clamps. Establishing the exact feeding value of silage was vital when cows start calving and beef farmers are finishing cattle, Mr Mullane said. The poorer than expected silage results add to mounting fears of fodder shortages this winter, particularly in the north-west.

As a consequence, Aurivo is organising three free information evenings at which experts from its Homeland and Nutrias brands will offer advice and support on predicting fodder needs and calculating potential shortages, steps to reduce demand on current supplies, managing silage ground that could not be harvested and utilising strong grazing covers in challenging underfoot conditions.

A representative from Mental Health Ireland will also discuss how the pressure of such shortages can impact on farmers' well-being and representatives from financial institutions will be on hand to offer advice on managing additional expenses this winter.

The events are taking place at the following locations: Donegal, November 13 - Dorians Hotel, Ballyshannon at 8pm; Sligo, November 15 - Sligo Park Hotel, Sligo at 8pm; Leitrim, November 23rd - Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon at 8pm.

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