Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 18 November 2017

First cut silage yield down 40pc but high quality

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

First cut silage yields are 40pc behind normal levels this year, although the quality of the earliest crops have been described as excellent.

Late closed paddocks, late fertiliser applications and disastrous grass growth conditions have combined to deliver very light crops, according to silage contractors.

Mitchelstown contractor PJ Crotty said first cut yields on the early crop were down 40pc on normal, with cutting delayed by at least a week on the driest farms.

A 97ac block of silage owned by Liam Roche, Ballybeg, Mitchelstown, yielded between 8t/ac and 10t/ac according to the contractor. The silage ground had been closed before the end of March.

However, Mr Crotty said silage on many farms was several days behind due to late fertiliser application.

Mallow-based contractor Timmy O'Brien racked up 1,000 bales on the counter in the past fortnight.

"Crops are very light," he remarked. "They're getting six bales to the acre on grass wilted for two days."

Six 4x4 bales per acre wilted for 36-48 hours would equate to approximately 5.4t/ac in settled pit silage.

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However, the contractor added that silage quality was excellent.

"You couldn't get better stuff," he maintained.

Mr O'Brien added that he expected the main crop silage to begin in earnest around June 15-20.

Another Mallow contractor, Eamon Waters, made 200ac of pit silage in the past week.

"The crops were quite good, I would say 10t/ac," said Mr Waters.

"This was made in exceptionally good weather on very good land that was ungrazed so far this year."

However, he added that silage harvesting was a long way off for many farmers in the region.

"Some farms are still waterlogged or were forced to graze their silage ground and only just closed it up," he said.

On such farms, harvesting of first crop silage is likely to be at least one month to six weeks behind normal.

Kerry contractor Maurice Fitzmaurice said the only grass that had been cut around Tralee was hauled immediately into sheds to feed cattle.

"We're nowhere near silage yet," he said.

In Tipperary, contractor John Graves from Dundrum expects to start cutting grass for pit today.

"Crops are light to look at, I think some of them will be very poor. I would say they will be at least one-third," he said.

Closer to Cahir, Thomas Murphy cut reseeded fields for farmer Liam Burke that yielded 12 bales/ac, which would equate to around 10.8t/ac in settled pit silage.

Mr Murphy's own ungrazed silage ground yielded nine bales per acre (8.1t/ac in settled pit silage). Both crops were wilted for 36 hours and were described as very good quality.

A Kilkenny contractor, based between the city and Gowran, said the earliest crops were "perfect quality" but yielding only 5-6t/ac.

Teagasc has urged farmers not to delay silage cutting once the crop began to head out.

Cutting a high quality crop, even at a lower yield, was better than harvesting a larger quantity of a lesser quality crop, Teagasc beef specialist Pearse Kelly maintained.

"If 50pc or more of the crop is headed out, it's time to take it out," he said. "Then get back in immediately with N, P and K, if allowed, to grow a second crop."

Irish Independent