Producing quality silage

By Country News

Dairy Australia has provided some tips on how to produce quality silage.

Cut early in the season

For maximum silage quality, cut pastures when they are at or near canopy closure. This is also the optimum stage of growth for grazing in spring.

Providing pasture is at or only slightly past grazing height, and harvested in good weather conditions, milk production will be only marginally less than if the same pasture had been grazed by the cows.

Wilting rate of the mown pasture has a big impact on silage quality. The time of day pasture is cut impacts on the wilting rate.

The following should be considered when deciding on mowing time to aid rapid drying but to avoid over-drying:

Mow after dew has lifted.

Match mowing and harvesting operations so that mown material is not left unharvested for lengthy periods.

Reduce wilting periods for forages, such as legumes and young, leafy plants.

Delay mowing until mid to late afternoon to reduce the risk of over-drying the forage during hot, dry and windy weather.

Stagger mowing and narrow the swath width if there is a real risk of over-drying.

Wilt and harvest quickly

Have the forage in the pit or bale within 24 to 48 hours.

If possible, wilt rapidly to the target dry matter (baled silage 40 to 50 per cent and pit silage 32 to 38 per cent) to reduce potential dry matter and quality losses.

Several strategies that can increase wilting rates:

Mow crops at canopy closure (lighter crops with more leaf and less stem).

Use a mower-conditioner with flail or tynes.

Follow the mower with a tedder to spread the forage.

Ted within half-an-hour to two hours after mowing while plant stomata are still open, if possible, to substantially increase rate of wilting.

Leave the swath of the conditioned forage as wide as possible (moisture evaporates quicker from thin, wide swaths).

Do not over-wilt — field losses increase and silage is harder to compact.

Additives are available to improve fermentation if wilting conditions are poor.

Inoculants may also improve silage quality and animal production.