With high temperatures, sunny conditions and little chance of rain, this will be a busy week for silage, as farmers take the opportunity to get the main first-cut harvested.

It is still relatively early and many farmers will be asking if they should hold off on cutting until the crop bulks up a bit more.

I think it’s a legitimate question. Well-fertilised silage fields that were grazed this spring will be growing at a phenomenal rate these times, possibly 140kg to 180kg per day.

It will continue to grow at a high rate until it goes close to going to seed and then growth rate will slow and the proportion of stem increases and the proportion of leaf decreases, meaning quality will drop.

That is likely to happen later this week or over the weekend, as grass will be starting to head out around then.

Balancing act

Knowing the best time to cut silage is a balancing act between capturing quality and yield. The longer it is left, the more the yield, but the lower the quality and vice versa.

As many dairy farmers are low on silage reserves and considering that the weather is stable, I wouldn’t be inclined to rush into silage just because the weather is good now.

The risk is obvious; it could start raining next week and decide not to stop for a few weeks and, as a result, the opportunity is gone and so too is silage quality.

It's a decision that every farmer will have to weigh up for themselves based on their own specific risk factors.

On the other hand, fields that haven’t been grazed are at peak now in terms of quantity and are at risk of losing quality, so I would be inclined to cut these fields sooner rather than later and give them a chance for a decent second cut too.