Hay and Si­lage

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE - By FRANK MICKAN, Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria Pas­ture and Fod­der Con­ser­va­tion Spe­cial­ist.

IT’S been a great year for grass growth, but a shocker for mak­ing sat­is­fac­to­rily wilted si­lage.

Ear­lier in the sea­son, some farm­ers and con­trac­tors were able to har­vest some si­lage, but the break in the wet weather was shorter than we would have liked to en­sure the for­age was har­vested in the de­sir­able dry mat­ter ranges.

It is highly likely that much of this si­lage will have been en­siled wet­ter than de­sir­able, es­pe­cially if baled.

It seems that rain will be an on­go­ing con­cern pos­si­bly mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to suc­cess­fully har­vest high-qual­ity si­lage with­out rain dam­age this year.

De­spite poorer qual­ity si­lage be­ing made, the lit­tle silver lin­ing in the cloud is that, pro­vided pad­docks are not chopped up dur­ing har­vest and pas­ture is only about half way up the gum­boot at cut­ting, the pad­docks will re­cover well and quickly and soil mois­ture will al­low a longer sea­son in many ar­eas.

Longer pas­tures will be much slower to re­cover and be much less dense.

What can be done to min­imise the dele­te­ri­ous ef­fects of wet weather on si­lage qual­ity?

The aim is to har­vest chopped stack si­lage in at about 30 to 35 per cent dry mat­ter (DM) con­tent ver­sus 40 to 50 per cent DM for round baled si­lage.

Pre­ci­sion chopped si­lage could be en­siled up to about 40 per cent DM due to the shorter chop length en­abling bet­ter com­paction.

If DM con­tents are be­low these tar­gets, the si­lage will un­dergo a less de­sir­able fer­men­ta­tion re­sult­ing in in­creased DM losses, be of lower qual­ity and be less palat­able to cat­tle.

This year some very early bales have been much wet­ter than de­sired, but by us­ing the latest balers, they are pro­duc­ing very tight bales, with si­lage ad­di­tives hav­ing been used.

The lack of air, plus ad­di­tive in­clu­sion has en­sured suc­cess in most oc­ca­sions in the past few years.

Don’t count on this if loose bales are pro­duced.

Be aware that even tra­di­tional 1.2 me­tre x 1.2 me­tre bales will be very heavy (650kg and above).

De­lay­ing cut­ting too long will also re­sult in si­lage of low nu­tri­tive value, even if un­dam­aged by rain.

These crops will be heav­ier and un­less we get good breaks of quite warm weather to achieve the de­sired wilt­ing for ei­ther stacks or bales, the si­lage will prob­a­bly un­dergo a poorer fer­men­ta­tion if made too wet and/or soil is in­cluded in the for­age.

Cut­ting ear­lier with some rain dam­age will still re­sult in si­lage of bet­ter qual­ity than that cut later, as­sum­ing most pad­dock dam­age is avoid­able.

Digestibil­ity is drop­ping about three to five per­cent­age units per seven to 10 days by mid-Oc­to­ber and pro­tein con­tent drop­ping about one to three units, de­pend­ing on the ma­tu­rity date of the rye­grass species in the pas­ture.

The longer a mown crop is on the ground, and/or the more rain that falls on it, the greater the dry mat­ter and qual­ity (en­ergy and pro­tein) losses from plant res­pi­ra­tion, mi­cro­bial and bac­te­rial caused losses, leach­ing losses and some pos­si­ble leaf shat­ter.

Rain can also splash un­de­sir­able bac­te­ria onto the for­age, ba­si­cally in­oc­u­lat­ing the ma­te­rial with un­de­sir­able bac­te­ria.

Ap­ply­ing a bac­te­rial si­lage in­oc­u­lant is of­ten said to speed up the fer­men­ta­tion of any re­main­ing su­gar and re­sult in a good fer­men­ta­tion.

This may ap­ply where the crop has not been ex­posed to many days of wet weather or wilt­ing has oc­curred over less than three to four days.

There should be enough plant sug­ars for the bac­te­ria to con­vert to a sweet-smelling lac­tic acid to pre­serve the for­age.

How­ever, there are other prod­ucts on the mar­ket which can han­dle ma­te­rial ex­posed to con­stant driz­zle or heavy rain or where wilt­ing has been ex­tended for many days.

These are buffered acid salts, and another con­tains an enzyme base + sul­phur com­pound which scav­enges the oxy­gen.

You can ask about oth­ers suited for over-wet ma­te­rial or ex­tended wilt­ing.

These are the prod­ucts worth con­sid­er­ing this dif­fi­cult sea­son.

Three fi­nal words on si­lage ad­di­tives.

1. They will re­turn you at least three to five dol­lars for ev­ery dol­lar spent.

2. You will not al­ways see the dif­fer­ence be­tween treated and un­treated si­lage al­though, this year, you may smell the dif­fer­ence.

3. I would rec­om­mend us­ing the rel­e­vant si­lage ad­di­tive in all sce­nar­ios.

HARD HAR­VEST: Pas­ture and fod­der spe­cial­ist, Frank Mickan said it is highly likely that this year’s si­lage will be wet­ter than in an ideal sea­son.

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