Farmers are being urged to take control of silage quality this year by pre-cut grass testing to ensure grass is harvested at the optimum time.
According to Lientjie Colahan, sales and technical support at Lallemand Animal Nutrition, pre-cut testing is a critical part of the silage making process to maximise forage quality and fibre digestibility.
“Forage is the cheapest feed available for dairy and beef systems, improving its quality will increase production from forage, reducing reliance on purchased feeds. This will significantly benefit production margins, especially during years when feed prices are disproportionally high,” she advises.
To help farmers determine the best time to cut grass for optimum quality silage, Lallemand Animal Nutrition is offering free pre-cut grass testing this season.
“Farmers often fall into a routine of following the same cutting patterns as previous years, rather than being governed by the grass quality of the current season. This can prove costly due to the variation in the weather and growing conditions, therefore testing should start around three weeks prior to the date of your first cut last year,” explains Mrs Colahan.
The opticut system enables producers to take a planned approach when it comes to maximising the quality and quantity of grass silage throughout the growing season, to fit the requirements of their farm.
There are three key elements to the system. These include: pre-cut grass testing, correct management of the silage making process, and use of a crop and condition specific inoculant to improve nutrient retention and reduce losses from aerobic instability. Monitoring nitrogen application is also important as this affects grass growth.
“One of the most important elements to determine in pre-cut testing is the neutral detergent fibre (NDF) content. This is the main gauge of plant maturity, giving the best indication of when the grass is ready to cut. If nitrogen aplication is significantly altered, the grass may become stressed and go to head earlier” explains Mrs Colahan.
“Pre-cut testing should be carried out until at least the third cut, ideally continuing throughout the season.”
She suggests also keeping contractors informed about proposed forage plans for the year, providing a rough estimate of when you think your first cut will be, and updating them according to pre-cut results.
“By regularly testing your crop throughout the season and acting on these results, farmers will be able to set up the foundations to produce good quality silage with improved nutritional value,” says Mrs Colahan.
Lallemand Animal Nutrition has been working alongside farmers to improve forage quality and utilisation for over 25 years. To get your free pre-cut grass testing kit, please scan the QR code below or call: 01684 580022.