A NEW initiative launched by Volac and Germinal is encouraging farmers to look at practical ways they can improve their milk from forage figure.
Milk from forage figures have remained stubbornly static over the last decade with Promar figures showing averages since 2008 have flatlined about the 2,000-litre per cow mark, despite stocking rates remaining static, and health and fertility improving.
However, according to Kingshay figures, the top 25 per cent of producers are achieving about 4,000 litres per cow from forage, irrespective of yield, resulting in bought-in feed cost savings of between 1.6ppl and 1.8ppl for herds averaging 6,000-9,000 litres respectively.
To help farmers make improvements, Volac and Germinal have come up with the ‘Five for 500’ action plan, which highlights five key areas which can help deliver an extra 500 litres from forage.
This follows a survey of more than 200 dairy farmers, conducted by the two companies, which showed virtually all respondents said a desire for increasing milk from forage was an area which was either extremely or very important for the future of their businesses.
Germinal area manager Helen Mathieu says: “The frustrating part, as shown in our survey, is less than half actually know what their milk from forage figure was, and fewer still have set themselves a target despite declaring their desire to improve.”
The survey showed that farmers setting a milk from forage improvement target were aiming at an additional 500 litres.
Volac business manager Peter Smith says: “To achieve this 500-litre target, cows will require an extra 8MJ per day from silage.
"So our recommended plan focuses on five areas in the grass silagemaking process where simple actions can make this extra energy available, and therefore deliver an additional 500 litres.”
FIVE FOR 500 ACTION PLAN
1. Plan your grass silage budget
It is important to have a plan based on the number of animals being fed, target intakes and expected production per hectare to ensure there is enough silage of the right quality.
2. Assess grass yield and quality in the field
Assess the raw material in the field, which means having a clear understanding of the potential performance of each field earmarked for silage making.
This might be as simple as asking the contractor to count how many trailer loads of silage come off. As part of this it is important to assess swards and look at weed burden.
3. Improve grass yield and quality in the field
Renovate and replace leys routinely, think carefully about variety selection and use varieties with a narrow heading date range.
4. Reduce in-field losses
Ensure grass is cut for silage before it comes into ear. The crop will lose 0.5 units of D value every day after ear emergence.
Cut above the plant’s growing point, leaving about 7.5cm stubble and avoid soil contamination. Mow once the dew has lifted to give the grass the best chance to get to about 30 per cent dry matter within 24 hours.
Grass wilts most rapidly in the first two hours after mowing, with the first six hours being important to the speed of wilt.
Make sure mowers and tedders are set up properly, which includes tyre pressures, to avoid soil contamination.
5. Reduce ensiling losses
Ensure clamped grass is adequately compacted. At 30 per cent dry matter, silage requires about 25 per cent of the weight of silage coming into the pit per hour to be mechanically rolling the pit.
So 100 tonnes per hour coming into the clamp would require 25t of machinery rolling it. Use a silage additive to reduce DM losses.