Are your first cut silage yields up to scratch?
Why delaying first cut too long silage past grass heading date will cause a large drop in quality and reduce second cut yields significantly
Recent weeks has seen much improved grass growth and ground conditions for most of the country.
Many farms have taken the opportunity to begin harvesting first cut silage. Current weather forecasts are for relatively settled conditions for the week ahead. This should allow more silage area to be harvested in the coming days.
The Teagasc Fodder Working Group is monitoring conditions across various sites nationally. Dr Joe Patton, Teagasc specialist said; “It’s important that the first cut is not delayed and that the majority of farmers plan for a second cut in the 2018 silage season. Every effort should be made to rebuild fodder stocks during the coming months to ensure adequate stocks for the 2018 winter/2019 spring.”
He noted the following trends:
PastureBase data is reporting average daily growth rates of 70 to 80kg Dry Matter per hectare. Differences within county are greater than between counties reflecting individual farm management decisions. Overall, many farms are producing grass surpluses on grazing areas; these will likely need to be removed as baled silage to maintain grass quality.
First cut yields
On areas closed for silage, dry matter yields have increased considerably. Well managed swards in Munster/south Leinster were at 4500 to 5800kg DM per hectare on areas grazed in late March, and 5000 to 6000kg DM on areas closed since autumn.
With these yields in place, quality targets should now dictate cutting date. Delaying first cut too long past grass heading date will cause a large drop in quality and reduce second cut yields significantly. The aim should be to take out main first cut areas by early June; areas grazed twice this spring can be cut around 7-10 days later.
Grass sugars are the main consideration for crop preservation. Indications from various sites around the country are for sugars ranging 1.5 to 3.5pc.