Now Is The Time To Take Stock Of How Much Silage You Have

Before the organised chaos that is a calving season begins.

As we head deep into January and a very busy time of year on livestock farms, it is well worth standing back and making sure everything is in order before the organised chaos that is a calving season begins.

Silage Stock Assessment 

With most farms still requiring 60 to 70 plus of silage, it is always a good idea to do a quick calculation on your remaining stocks at the start of the new year. Thankfully, with the excellent late autumn and early winter we have had, there should be no fodder worries.

Silage quality is key to good animal performance and reducing winter feed costs during the housing period.

How Much Silage Remains

– Measure your Silage Pits 

– Length by width by height in feet 

– Divide your total by 48 to give you tonnes

The figure you come up with will give you an estimate of the remaining silage depending on its dry matter content.

How Much Forage Do You Need For The Rest Of The Winter?

Base this calculation on what they are currently eating. This is easy to do if you are weighing the feed in a diet feeder. If you are feeding grabs of silage then count the amount of grabs being fed daily and where possible get an accurate weight for one grab.

Typical Intakes:

Dairy Cows-Calved 50-55 Kg 

Dry cows Dairy/Sucklers 40-50 Kg (Less if straw/concentrates being fed) 

Sucklers with Calves 50-55 Kg 

Finishers 15-22 Kg (Depending on concentrates fed) 

Stores 25-30 Kg 

Weanlings 15-22 Kg 

Intakes will vary depending on animal weight but also due to silage Dry Matter and Silage Quality. The above figures are approximate based on typical 2021 silage Dry Matters of 20-25%. There are however massive Dry Matter variations countrywide with some wet silages made in May and some exceptionally dry 2 nd cuts made in July.

Plenty Of Jobs

January is always very busy on Dairy and Suckler farms and the list of jobs can be endless. Calving will be high on the agenda, but try not to take your eye off other things that may need to be done around now.

Jobs in the yard and around the rest of the farm must be sorted. All going well the grazing season is not too far away. Dairy herds once a number of cows have calved will be aiming to head to grass as soon as conditions allow, while most beef farms will be targeting a turn-out date in early to mid-March or thereabouts. Plans need to be put in place in order to have the paddocks ready. There is plenty of grass out there and with feed and fertiliser expensive, optimum utilisation of this grass will be key. Fencing once weather allows if not already done should be high on the to do list.

Fertiliser And Slurry Season 

It is important that strategies are put in place to get the very best use of slurry on your grazing ground in conjunction with efficient use of chemical fertiliser. We must all treat slurry as an important nutrient and try to use it wisely to reduce overall production costs. Watering down slurry sufficiently to get optimum use of the Nitrogen is key to this. With regard to fertiliser, given the huge increase in cost, it is important that you use the correct product based on the nutrients required by your ground. If you have recent soil results use these to devise your nutrient strategy. If you have soil results, does your land need lime? It’s the cheapest fertiliser available and often the one that gets ignored most!

January is normally a quiet month for consumer demand for beef in the aftermath of the festive celebrations

Cropping Decisions For 2022

2021 was an excellent growing season for alternative forages. Technology and knowledge have improved so much around Maize, whole crop and beet that they are now extremely consistent and high performing, excellent value alternatives to expensive grass silage. Grass silage is as always difficult to get right and any delay in cutting or bad weather during the growing season result in poor winter feeding. A forage strategy that includes alternative feeds will make sure that you do not put all your eggs in the one basket in the form of unreliable grass silage. Whatever you are considering base your decisions on solid facts and figures. Maize Silage and Whole crop will provide more energy for every euro you spend than grass silage in a 2-cut system will. Those figures hold through on both owned and rented ground. Given the price of fertiliser this spring it is worth remembering that you will grow twice as much dry matter from maize silage than you will from grass silage from the same units of nitrogen. It takes 40-45 units to grow a tonne of grass silage dry matter and 20-22 units to grow a tonne of maize silage dry matter. This represents much better use of both fertiliser and land.

Early Calving Issues

Some herds are reporting that the first cows are calving before time and some of these are holding the cleaning. Are you feeding silage where the ground had a lot of slurry applied? This could mean that the silage is too high in Potassium (K) and this needs to be diluted out of the diet. The addition of some straw to the cows diet will dilute the K down physically, while the addition of cal mag or mag chloride flakes will help to balance it chemically. It will often need both approaches to steady the ship.

This should also settle down once you have supplied sufficient energy, straw and minerals to dry cows and they go closer to full term. 

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Brian Reidy – 11/01/2022)

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