Multi-cut silage system: 10-point checklist

In December 2017, in partnership with Volac, Germinal conducted a UK silage survey with 187 responses from dairy farmers. A number of findings from the survey were significant and inspired the creation of our 10-point multi-cut grass silage checklist.

  • 89% of farmers aimed to increase milk from forage whether grazed or silaged

  • 64% thought silage making was more important than they had previously believed

With these two statistics in mind, 80% of the dairy farmers surveyed were still taking three cuts or fewer. 

In collaboration with Volac, Germinal advised a 10-point checklist to help further improve silaging while offering achievable and measurable steps.

How is silage made?

1. Plan ahead

  • Consult your contractor or review your own equipment
  • Consider clamp capacity and/or bale storage area
  • Set targets for timing, tonnage and quality
  • Test soils and slurry over the winter period

2. Reseed to maintain grass leys

  • Maintain high-sown species content and ground cover
  • Grow mixtures with high yielding varieties, good spring growth and high ME yield/ha
  • Only select varieties from Recommended Grass & Clover Lists (RGCL)

3. Over-winter grass swards with optimum cover

  • Remove autumn grazing stock by end of December with sward height at 4-5cm
  • Walk silage fields to check drainage, mole damage and weed content
  • Apply slurry into the soil, not onto the sward, to a maximum of 25,000l/ha

4. Ensure correct crop nutrition

  • Avoid heavy slurry applications within 10 weeks of cutting
  • Apply any slurry into the soil immediately fields are cleared
  • Apply bagged fertiliser as recommended by an agronomist but not exceeding 2 units/acre for each growing day between cuts

5. Cut early and frequently to produce grass silage

  • Take first cuts late April – early May (depending on season and location) to maximise ME yield
  • Take subsequent cuts at intervals of four to five weeks to maintain quality
  • Mow no lower than 6.5 cm to ensure rapid regrowth

6. Wilt quickly for optimum dry matter

  • Cut early in the day with a mower with an effective integral conditioner
  • Ted out the crop within two hours to maximise speed of drying
  • Aim to pick up the same day for a target 28-32% DM silage

7. Apply a proven silage additive to improve fermentation

  • Because protein and nitrates may be higher, which buffers the fermentation
  • Select an additive containing the most efficient fermentation bacteria

8. Chop long to maintain structural fibre

  • Consider a chop length of 5cm or longer for good clamp management
  • The typical chop length of a forage wagon can work well with multi-cut

9. Ensile for the best possible fermentation

  • Apply best practice approach when clamping or baling
  • Roll or compact to squeeze out air
  • Seal effectively to maintain airtight conditions
  • Ensile in layers to maximise compaction

10. Feed fibre as needed to balance rations

  • Ensure sufficient ‘scratch factor’ for optimum rumen function
  • Consult your nutritionist to maximise the value of higher energy grass silage

Does multi-cut silage make sense?


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