Farmers face opening silage pits of 'extremely variable' quality
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.