FARMERS looking to make better silage in 2021 to reduce reliance on bought-in feeds should start planning now, urges Volac silage specialist, Ken Stroud, to allow time for appropriate actions.

Based on experience, he offers a timely five-point plan.

l Review your silage analysis

“If metabolisable energy (ME) is low, swards may have deteriorated to include less nutritious grasses, making some reseeding necessary. Alternatively, the way silage is made may need attention. This could mean cutting grass younger while it’s more digestible, wilting faster to minimise in-field energy losses, or improving fermentation so that energy is conserved better in the clamp.

l Communicate with your contractor

“Understand your contractor’s time constraints and inform them of yours. If you’re making changes – for example cutting earlier because you’re moving to multi-cut silage – they need to know. It’s amazing how many farmers call contractors at the last minute.

l Prepare the clamp

“Many farms had problems with silage heating in 2020, which happens when air gets in and allows growth of yeast and mould. Some of this was because silage was made too dry. But I’ve seen cases where weak walls prevented clamps being consolidated to the edges, leaving air gaps. As well as cleaning clamps, repair walls so they are up to the job.”

l Have materials ready

“The final few grass loads on top of the clamp are the most vulnerable to spoilage. Yet these will be the ones left untreated if additive is short. If making silage up to 30 per cent dry matter (DM), look for an additive to improve fermentation, such as Ecosyl.

l Have a plan B

“If it turns wet, be prepared to set the harvester to chop grass longer to stop clamp slippage. If it’s dry, you may need to chop shorter so it’s easier to compact. Remember, grass could be 30 per cent DM when you start harvesting, but 35 per cent DM once the sun has been on it longer. Again, this could affect the last few loads on top of the clamp."