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Expert Warns Farmers to Take Action to Prevent First-Cut Silage Losses


Farmers harvesting first-cut silage are being warned of possible fermentation issues and urged to take preventative action to reduce further losses following one of the wettest winters on record.

Fresh grass samples taken from farms across the country have revealed a massive range in grass sugar contents from 5% to 12% on a dry matter basis, with a target of 10 or above.

High fibre contents are also being reported, both of which could affect fermentation in the clamp, warned EnviroSystems’ Managing Director Liz Russell.

“This year, more than ever, it’s so important that farmers analyse their grass pre-cutting to get an idea of when to cut and what quality they could be looking at.  “With the weather so changeable and forage in short supply across many farms, it may be a case for some farmers of trying to harvest first cut in less-than-ideal conditions, which could further impact fermentation in the clamp, ” she said.

Wet grass buffers the acid produced, which means it can take longer for the pH to lower to stop microbial breakdown, affecting the quality of the silage. “When conditions aren’t ideal and fresh grass testing reveals grass that’s lower in nutrients than expected, fermentation in the clamp may need a helping hand and this is where using a silage inoculant can really help by maximising the feed value by enhancing the fermentation.”

“Silage additives work by speeding up the fermentation process and reducing nutrient and dry matter loss. However, not all additives are the same, so it’s important to choose the right one based on your farm situation, than simply reaching for the cheapest.

“Optisile®, for example, contains three strains of bacteria which outcompete any invasive bacteria and fungi and work in unison to ensure optimum ensiling of the forage. The higher concentration of Lactobacillus plantarum in OptiSile allows the stronger buffering capability of grass to be overcome, and ensures a rapid pH drop to promote the initial fermentation, which is vital in wetter than average forages,” she said.

“It also works to minimise the bacterial, fungal and yeast contamination which not only result in nutrient losses, but can pose serious health risks in cows,” Ms Russell added.  Even in tough seasons for weather, farmers have reported a decent crop in the clamp as a result of the product, due to the rapid fermentation benefits it brings.

Dairy farmer Martin Wannop from Cumbria said: “With silaging our biggest worry has always been rain and the weather. It has been too wet or dry in the past and previous additives have not kept the silage stable, we’d pulled back the sheet and it was mouldy and secondary fermentation was a problem. “Since using Optisile, it has always kept the silage cool, and it’s easy to mix. When you pull back the sheet the silage has kept stable, with no waste and no secondary fermentation – even in tough seasons for weather, “he adds.


Learn More 

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