Silage cutting

First cut silage cutting is in full swing around the country, with contractors flat out trying to get everybody sorted out in the current weather window.

While the standard advice is to mow grass and leave it wilt for 24-36 hours, doing that in the current conditions will lead to a very dry crop.

Speaking to contractors this week, some are having issues blowing grass into trailers, especially where very light crops have been left on the ground too long.

Aim to mow the crop in the afternoon/evening and pick up the next day. If you’re worried about it getting very dry, rake up the following morning a few hours before picking up.

Take the time to cover the pit well and make sure it’s properly sealed and airtight.

Work done at Teagasc Grange has shown that farms can lose up to 20% of DM post-ensiling through poor management. This can be a combination of effluent losses, failure to fully seal pits, and damage to bales.

Seal pits quickly and completely, and monitor regularly for damage by vermin.

Remember to block off the front of the pit for fear any animal would decide to go for a walk and leave you with an evening’s patching to do.

Second cut silage fertiliser

First cut yields of silage have been variable. On some farms that got out with fertiliser and slurry early, there have been some very heavy crops ensiled. On other farms where cuts where completed earlier, some have bulked up small, so the second cut will be an important addition to winter feed supplies.

This will be especially important for the winter of 2023/2024, as silage stocks are at an all time low on a lot of farms If you are targeting a 6t/acre crop of grass for your second cut (most crops will yield between 4-8t/acre) you will need about 60 units of N, 10 units of P and 60 units of K/acre.

Spreading 2,000 gallons of slurry/acre if you have it will supply the P and K requirements, which means you will need 1.5 bags of protected urea/acre or 2 bags of CAN/acre to meet the crop’s demand.

Maximise cattle slurry application at this time of the year so that slurry tanks are emptied before next winter. Cattle slurry applied by splash plate in June will have a lower nitrogen (N) value compared to low emission application techniques.

Don’t forget about sulphur. Research has shown that sulphur plays a key role in increasing grass dry matter yield, fertiliser N efficiency and reduced N leaching. For second cut silage crops, aim to apply 6-12 units/acre per cut. See Table 1 below for N values.