Some Top Tips For Making First Class Silage

This week, farmers across the country flooded to the fields to kickstart the 2019 silage season.

This was brought on by the sunny, dry weather with exceptionally high temperatures – reaching 22° in some areas.

Cutting Silage

Monitor Swards

For farmers who didn’t cut, they should be going out and examining their closed paddocks to see what growth stage they are at – to determine whether or not they are fit for harvest.

Grass growth rates will be hitting between 80-100kg DM/ha in a lot of areas this week, so you need to be mindful of this when determining the harvest date.

The quality or the dry matter digestibility (DMD) of your silage will depend on how much leaf and how little stem, seed heads and dead herbage are present in the sward when it is harvested.

However, poorly preserved silage can cause a reduction in silage quality, even if grass quality was good at harvest.

Plan Harvest Date

The target should be to harvest first-cut silage before the end of the first week in June.

The heading date of the ryegrass also has a role to play in determining the cutting date of the sward; you should be aiming to cut before the seed head begins to emerge on the grass plant.

Intermediate-heading varieties will begin heading out in the second half of May and late-heading varieties in the first half of June.

Kennedys silage contractor


Farmers commonly delay cutting because they are waiting for the nitrogen (N) that they have spread to be used up.

When trying to determine if the N has been used up by the grass plant or not, Teagasc recommends going by the rule of thumb – “silage uses two units of N a day”.

Although, the crop can be cut earlier if weather conditions are dry and sugar levels are good (above 3%).

However, Teagasc also recommends “to test a sample rather than wait for the N to be used up”.


The sunny weather and the high temperatures will provide ideal wilting conditions for a mowed sward.

Farmers should aim to wilt the grass as quickly as possible post-mowing to limit sugar losses.

The problem is, as soon as grass is cut, sugars start declining because they are being used up by the plant – since it is still living – and by undesirable bacteria.

Therefore, the aim should be to wilt as rapidly as possible to an ideal target DM of 30-35%.

From an environmental point of view, wilting the grass reduces the amount of effluent produced when it is stored.

(Source – Agriland – Emma Gilsenan – 18/05/2019)


Have You Taken These Tips Into Consideration Before Choosing Your Grass Mix?


If you looked out across the countryside this week you were bound to see grass scattered for silage or a field recently reseeded.

When it comes to reseeding, picking the grass seed mixture can sometimes be the most difficult part.

However, during a reseeding demo held by Glanbia, Mary McEvoy – a technical development manager with Germinal – outlined some key things to consider when picking the most suitable grass varieties for a reseeded sward.

The first thing to do, Mary explained: “Is to make sure the varieties you are choosing are either on the pasture profit index (PPI) or the recommended list.

“Essentially, what the PPI does is quantifies in €/ha/year how much one variety can deliver over another – like an EBI for grass varieties.”

Grass growth-768x435


According to Mary, the most important trait to look at “when choosing a grass variety is quality”.

“There are big differences in quality between varieties. The difference between the best variety and the worst on the PPI is €94/ha/year.

This is why it is so important that the mixture you are sowing today is of high quality, because it will mean a lot more money on the farm over the next eight to 10 years.

Touching on why these differences exist, she said: “For each one unit increase in dry matter digestibility (DMD) this means an increase of about 0.25L of milk/day – so you can see the difference that is going to have on your milk cheque.

“The reverse of that is lower-quality varieties have more fibre going into the rumen – so they fill the cow up quicker – and she will be eating less of a lower-quality feed. This will have a knock on effect on the performance of the cow.”

Diploid Vs. Tetraploid

Every grass variety is either a diploid or tetraploid. When choosing your mix it is advised to have a “50:50 mix of diploid and tetraploid varieties”.

“The diploid varieties bring the density to the sward – and act like a carpet underneath the cows – which reduces the risk of poaching. So, if you have heavy ground, diploid varieties are important.

Tetraploid variety

“Tetraploids, on the other hand, have a more upright growth habit, have a larger leaf, are higher in quality and we have seen higher intakes and performance from tetraploids.

“But the downfall is they are more open, so they are more susceptible to poaching on heavy ground.

“This is why we use mixtures, to get the right balance between the qualities of each,” explained Mary.

Heading Date

Finally, Mary explained why the heading date of the variety should be looked at: “This is when the variety begins to develop a seed head and when this happens the quality begins to deteriorate.”

For silage swards, she said: “You want the heading date happening later than your target cutting date to avoid low-quality silage.

“For the mix you want a narrow range of heading dates – up to seven days for silage and 10 days for grazing. For grazing, you have a bit more flexibility because generally you’re going in and grazing it every 18-21 days anyway.”

(Source – Agriland – Emma Gilsenan – 19/05/2019)

Teagasc – Recommended Intermediate & Late Perennial Ryegrass Varieties-2019

Related Articles:

The Last Thing We Want Is Another Farm Accident

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Rural Enterprise Skillnet
Rural Enterprise Skillnet

The Rural Enterprise Skillnet is funded by member companies and the Training Networks Programme, an initiative of Skillnets Ltd. funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills.

Read More