When to harvest silage?
A compromise between yield and quality
For finishing beef cattle it is far better to target quality silage than push for extra yields. This will reduce the requirement for bought-in concentrate feeds. The growth rates of the cattle will be higher; they will finish quicker and less silage will be required. A study at Hillsborough in Northern Ireland prepared silage from grass at two stages of maturity either at 73% D-value or 59% Dvalue. The higher D-value silage gave a growth rate of 1.10 kg daily liveweight gain whereas the poorer D-value silage only enabled a growth rate of 0.78 kg liveweight gain. That is worth 0.32 kg/d extra. However, if we consider the dry suckler cow, the high digestible silage is likely to cause problems associated with over fat cows and all the additional problems at calving and veterinarycosts. So the lower D-value silage would be ideal. It is essential from an economic view point that we tailor our time of cutting silage to ensure the correct silage quality is produced for each animal type on the farm.
Similarly, for pregnant ewes the quality of silage is the most important factor, both in terms of nutrient status and intake potential. So all decisions should be based on stock nutrient requirements and silages with different qualities can be made for these different classes of stock.
For more information from 'a good silage guide' please click here
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