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Silage Quality for Beef Cattle

By Charlie Devaney,

Teagasc Beef Adviser, Castlerea.

 

Silage quality is a major issue on farms and it is one of the few things that we can improve on our farms without any real cost. I have three farmer groups and each group takes silage samples. The simple message that I see coming back is the earlier you cut your silage the better your silage quality will be. Dry Matter Digestibility (DMD) is a measure of the feed value and the higher the DMD of the silage the better animal performance is. The target weight gain for a weanling that you are not selling in the spring is 0.6kgs of live weight gain per day over the winter period. Where you have silage of 75DMD you need to feed up to 0.5kg of meal/day. For silage of 70, 65, 60 and 55 DMD you need to feed up to 1.25, 2, 2.5 and 3.5kg of meal/day respectively. When you compare the cost of feeding meal to a weanling over the winter that is offered poor quality silage (55 DMD) versus good quality silage (75 DMD) the weanling on the poor quality silage will cost you approximately €112 more to keep for the winter. As with weanlings, Suckler cow performance is greatly affected by variation in silage quality. A Spring calving cow feeding on 72 DMD silage should have restricted access to silage and be eating 80% of intake. When fed 65 DMD silage, she should be fed to appetite. And when fed 60 DMD silage she should be fed to appetite plus 1kg meal. For Autumn calving cows fed on 72, 66 and 60 DMD silage she requires ad lib silage and 1.8, 2.5 and 3kg’s of meal respectively.

Conclusions

It costs the same to make good silage as poor silage but there is a massive difference in the costs of wintering animals on good silage versus poor silage. For 2018 have fertiliser and lime right and cut silage earlier, before the grass heads out.

Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Roscommon Town  (Tel: 090 6626166), Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160) and Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021) You can find us online at #TeagascRNLD