Checklist for producing quality silage
1. Only lock up pasture that is surplus to requirements
On most farms, pasture growth will generally exceed animal requirements in early to mid-September. However, if paddocks are locked up earlier this may not be detrimental to the nutritive value of the pasture providing the paddock is cut at the appropriate time.
2. Use nitrogen to increase dry matter yield but cut pasture within six weeks of application
Once cutting is delayed beyond six weeks, the quality of the silage declines more rapidly than if no nitrogen is applied and this can result in large quantities of low-quality silage which is often unsuitable to feed cows in the early stage of lactation. By using rates of nitrogen up to 50 kg N/ha, responses of 12 kg DM/ha for every kg N applied, six weeks after application can be produced.
3. Use tedders to increase the drying rate of cut material and so reduce the wilting period
It has been shown the use of tedders benefits both final silage metabolisable energy and crude protein. The length of the wilting period will be dictated by the type of silage to be made, and weather conditions. Given reasonable drying conditions material should be ready for pit silage within 48 hours and for bale silage within 72 hours.
4. Ensile material quickly and seal well
It is important to ensure the material being ensiled is tightly packed into either a pit or the bale and that it is sealed promptly. The ideal dry matter of pasture for pit silage is 30 per cent, any lower and effluent may be a problem and any higher, compaction may be difficult. The dry matter percentage of bale silage should be about 45 – 50 per cent. At this dry matter a reasonable fermentation should occur, and it reduces the chance of spoilage.