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HomeBeef‘There is an increasing argument for taking first-cuts earlier’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘There is an increasing argument for taking first-cuts earlier’

In this article, Ken Stroud, Volac Business Manager for Ecosyl, outlines two ways to help farmers make better quality silage in 2022.

Analysing your analysis and cutting date flexibility are two ideas for better silage in 2022.

Analyse your analysis

Your silage analysis provides more than just the basis for ration formulation.

It is also packed with clues as to how silage-making might be improved.

The main items often viewed on a silage analysis are:

  • Metabolise energy (ME);
  • Digestibility (D value);
  • Protein;
  • % Dry Matter (DM).

But look closer, in particular, at the ratio of lactic acid to volatile fatty acids (VFAs) as this indicates the quality of the fermentation.

For a good fermentation, you ideally want a lactic acid to VFA ratio of at least 3:1. This means three times more lactic acid has been produced than VFAs.

This is important because:

  • Lactic acid is extremely efficient at preserving silage ;
  • When the sugar in grass is fermented only into lactic acid, very little of its energy is lost.

By comparison, not only are VFAs – which undesirable bacteria produce during poor fermentations – weaker at preserving silage, but carbon dioxide is also a by-product of this process. And carbon dioxide is wasted dry matter.

There are various ways of producing a better fermentation.

However, dominating it with a proven silage additive that applies 1 million efficient lactic acid-producing bacteria per gram of forage treated is certainly one.

Be flexible on cutting date

With the unpredictable May weather we often get nowadays, there is an increasing argument for taking first-cuts earlier, if you are able to, and taking more cuts over the year.

Not only does cutting earlier allow you to safely ‘bank’ a first-cut in case of weather delays later, it also removes overwintered grass to encourage fresh regrowth and tillering for the next cut (provided you do not cut too low).

Moreover, research has shown that cutting more often with a five-cut system not only produced grass that was on average 3 D units higher in digestibility and almost 3% higher in crude protein than grass from a three-cut system, but the five cuts also yielded an additional 0.92 t/ha of DM.

In addition, contractor availability is often better earlier, compared with May ‘bottlenecks’.

This reduces the risk of grass quality deteriorating due to delays. Plus, lighter and younger cuts of grass are easier to wilt and easier to consolidate in the clamp.

Finally, if you are cutting earlier and you use a contractor, remember to inform them in advance.

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