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Home Farming News Farmer's Diary: Taking the first cut of silage
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Farmer’s Diary: Taking the first cut of silage

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Edward Earle, Gorey, Co. Wexford, works as a quality engineer and farms over 300 ewes in partnership with his parents.

This week, we took out the first cut of silage. It was brilliant being able to cut the grass and leave it to wilt for 36 hours without any risk of rain.

Usually in Ireland, with the weather we have, cutting silage is just taking the opportunity whenever it comes.

With conditions allowing, we like to cut the grass after 6 weeks, when it’s nice and leafy, to get good quality feed for the winter months.

Grass cut at the right stage will produce highly digestible, leafy silage with values over 70% dry matter digestibility, whereas strong, overgrown and stemmy grass will only be 60% digestible.

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Hopefully, this will allow us to reduce meal fed prior to lambing. One thing we want to try next spring is to reduce the number of weeks mature ewes carrying singles will be fed meal.

With the grass being leafy, we only stack the bales 2 high so as not to have pressure on the bottom row of bales. We get the contractor to put on 6 layers of wrap to ensure the bales are well-sealed and to prevent mould.

Mouldy silage and sheep do not go well together and the last thing I want is sheep getting listeriosis – especially close to lambing.

Grazing

While conditions are great for cutting silage, grazing ground is slow to come back.

We had a couple of paddocks earmarked to take out for silage as they were gone too far for ideal grazing but, with grass slow to grow in the dry conditions, we had to graze these paddocks.

We split them in half in order to better manage the grazing on them. This has allowed better covers to come back on other paddocks and maintain lamb thrive.

Footbath

We foot-bathed all the sheep this week. With the dry conditions scald is an issue with some lambs, most notably the lambs grazing the heavier cover due to the stemmy nature of the grass. We used formalin on this round of footbathing.

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