With all the good summer weather it is hard to concentrate the mind on next winter and, in particular, on silage stocks.

On a number of occasions in the past I have been short of silage, or very nearly short, and I have always found it difficult to find good-quality silage when you need it. Here in the west most farmers have run short of silage at some stage in their farming career. When that happens, it can be a painful experience.

As a result, I would have a lot of neighbouring farmers who get so worried about running out that, when possible, they make enough for a couple of years. Others always have enough left every year that would do them the next year without making any more.

What they say is that it is as good as money in the bank.

Cattle were not able to fully utilise all the grass we were growing. They had to come off paddocks a day early as they were damaging the ground. This shortened the rotation and negatively affected the regrowth. Next time round there was a dirty butt in the paddocks, and they had to be topped instead of cut for bales.

This means that I’m going into mid-August, and I am down a couple of hundred bales from where I would like to be at this stage.

Third cut

What I have found (down the years) is that if you cannot grow extra grass in May and June then it is very difficult to make up the difference later in the year. We have some ground fertilised and left aside for third cut. I would be hoping that this will make up some of the shortfall, but it is very unlikely to fully close the gap.

With ground still closed up for silage, and dry conditions in the first half of August, grass on my paddock system is very tight at the moment. It is very unlikely that I will have any surplus paddocks to cut, especially at a time of year when I am trying to build covers for the autumn.

What I have found (down the years) is that if you cannot grow extra grass in May and June then it is very difficult to catch up later in the year. It may seem like it has been a great year, but it was difficult early on in this part of the world. We have been playing catch-up ever since.


I have decided that I need to be proactive and do something to make sure that I do not run short of silage. As a result, I won’t be taking any contract dairy heifers this winter.

I felt that this was the easiest option. I do not want to reduce my breeding herds (cows and sheep) and I do not want to feed extra meal to finish cattle early.

I may live to regret my decision as it was a nice regular income, but I felt it was better to act now rather than find my back against the wall next spring.

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Difficult year to date in the west

Farmer Writes: first trial with red clover silage