I always aim to make the best-quality silage that I can, but sometimes things outside my control conspire to make this exceedingly difficult.

The last 12 months have been one of those years when it has been near impossible to make superior-quality silage.

The difference between good- and bad-quality silage can be the difference between making a profit or a loss on your farm. But when you are using a contractor, especially for pit silage, you really need the weather to be on-side.

During 2023, there just wasn’t a long enough spell of good weather to be able to make good silage. Everyone was watching for a few dry days to get their silage made and then when you got a few good days, the contractors were extremely busy.

I did manage to make some reasonable first-cut silage. It was two weeks later than I would have wanted, but it went in, in reasonable conditions and I am fairly happy with it.

I also made some fairly good baled silage from paddocks taken out earlier in the summer.

But that is where the good news ends. My second cut was a real torture.

I had four different attempts at getting it made. It was all well past the ideal stage for cutting, very stemmy and ground conditions were extremely poor.

Driest ground

I started with the driest ground and hoped that conditions would improve in a few weeks. That did not happen and, in fact, the land just got wetter as the summer progressed.

Eventually in September I got the last of the second cut in and baled (some two months late), and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I would normally have made some third-cut silage, but with the second cut being so late, there was no opportunity to do that. I have ended up with a lot of silage, but the big problem is that so much of it is poor quality.


I have now had some of my silage analysed and it was just as I expected. The first cut and the early paddock bales are reasonably good. But the later stuff is very disappointing. The four different second cuts tell a stark tale.

The earlier stuff is average, but every subsequent delay had a massive effect on the quality. Then there are also issues with soil contamination in the later-cut stuff.

Anyway, that is all water under the bridge. It is what it is, and I just have to deal with it and move on. But it does complicate things a little, given I have so much poor-quality silage and not enough good-quality material.

Ad-lib feeding

I normally restrict my dry cows on good-quality silage, but this year I have changed things. I am feeding the dry cows ad-lib, low-quality silage to try and get some of it used up.

My intention is to move them on to better-quality silage when they get closer to calving.

Store cattle and beef cattle are getting some of the average and better-quality silage. It is not as good as I would like, so I am having to feed extra meal to try and maintain performance. However, the whole feeding process is messy.

Some cattle are getting bales and some are getting pit silage, and I am having to move silage from yard to yard.

My beef adviser has drawn up a feed plan and I am trying to follow this as best I can. I will be weighing the cattle on a regular basis to see if this feed plan is working.

In an ideal world, I would much prefer to have lots of good-quality silage to hand, but we have no control over the weather and a lot of my well-laid plans fell by the wayside in 2023.

I’m sure there are lots of other farmers in exactly the same situation.

I have to try and make the best of what I have, and hope that silage making in 2024 will be more successful.

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