First cut silage

Preparing fields and clamp before silage making begins saves time and money. Plan to start silage making one week earlier than normal and you'll improve quality and build in extra insurance against weather, says DairyCo extension officer Tom Goatman.

"Ensuring silage clamps are prepared ahead of cutting will increase the speed of operations and help to improve silage quality.  Ensure the clamp is cleaned thoroughly, remove any moulding or rotting silage and ensure the clamp is free from contaminants such as tyre wire that could have implications to animal health during feed out. 

"Attention should be given to ensure effluent drains are in good order and that clamp walls are impermeable to oxygen," says Tom.

"If you are harvesting using your own equipment it is important to check all machinery used in silage operations is serviced and any repairs from the previous season are completed. Make sure that additive barrels are drained of any rainwater and thoroughly cleaned to minimise the potential risk of any undesirable bacteria contaminating this season's crop.

"Walk the fields to check for any obstacles which damage machinery and lead to wasted time.

"If you are employing a contractor make sure you give as much notice as possible and that they are aware of how you require the harvesting to be undertaken.  Ensure that any inoculants you will require have been ordered and you've familiarised yourself with the application instructions. 

"Making sure you're ahead of the game means everything is ready as soon as the right cutting stage is reached.  It is important to remember each week's cutting delay in May can reduce digestibility by up to 2% points and milk yield by up to 0.6kg/day."

Early season silage checklist

  • Check fields early in season to identify those that need rolling - remember late rolling can reduce yields.
  • Spring fertilisation should be carefully geared to silage making plans.
  • Organic manures should be applied at least six weeks before silage making to avoid contamination leading to fermentation problems.
  • Analyse your soils every three to four years and make sure sufficient potassium, sulphur and phosphorus are applied to optimise grass growth.