Step 6. Feeding

Avoid simple errors that could spoil your silage and affect your cows.

The cleaner the clamp area, the better.

Mouldy silage or dirt in front of the clamp will contaminate the silage with undesirable bugs, reducing quality and reducing intake.

Do everything you can to avoid producing spoiled silage. If you have got it, discard it. Never mix it in with good silage. As well as being of poorer quality, it also adversely affects the rumen fermentation. So it can have a much bigger negative impact than you might think.

TOP TIP: Work across the clamp face to keep it tidy and tight and stop air getting into the clamp.

To take silage out of the clamp, use a shear grab. This maintains a smooth clamp face with a lower surface area and a better face density than simply ripping it out. This reduces the amount of air that gets in so there is less risk of aerobic spoilage (heating) causing losses of nutrients and potentially production of mycotoxins.

For the same reason, move across the face quickly to reduce the time that silage is exposed to air.

It is important to avoid pulling or cutting the top sheet back too far once the clamp is opened and to keep the front edge weighted down. It is also important to avoid pulling the sheet back down over the clamp face. This is because it creates a microclimate, which encourages yeasts and moulds, increasing the risk of spoilage and heating.

Finally get a silage analysis done and pay attention to it. It will tell you how good a job you made of silage-making last season, and help you to pinpoint ways in which this year’s silage production can be improved.

Multi-cut hints and tips

When feeding multi-cut silage, the key point is to correctly balance the ration.

Be mindful of its potential to deliver higher protein, which may be greater than you think. To assess protein accurately, have a wet silage analysis conducted.

If you don't have an accurate analysis, and end up feeding excess protein, it has to be excreted by the animal as urea. This takes energy and fertility can fall.

There is also a slight chance of higher nitrate levels in earlier-cut grass - though because farmers have cut back on nitrate fertilisers over the last few years, this may well be less of a risk. Nevertheless, the effects of feeding high nitrates from silage could also be exacerbated if feeding urea-treated cereal.

In addition, ensure you feed the right amount of fibre.

Although having a lower stem content and higher leaf content in the grass is helpful for wilting and consolidation, it is likely to mean a lower fibre content in the silage, compared with later-cut grass. Therefore, extra fibre may have to be added to the diet.

Volac and Germinal have developed a 10-point multi-cut grass silage checklist, designed to help you get the most from your grass silage making process.

I would like to see a silage clamp that you could eat your dinner off the floor in the front of – it should be that clean!
— Dr David Davies, Independent Silage Consultant

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