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Newford Farm Round Bale Silage Update

29 May 2020
Type Media Article

Iarlaith Collins, farm manager & Michael Fagan, technician of the Newford Suckler Demonstration Farm in Athenry give a brief update on one of the out farms regarding first cut round bale silage.

Tuohy’s farm is made up of 33 acres of heavy ground making it difficult to manage during heavy rainfall. The farm carries all the Newford bullocks throughout the year. It is carrying a stocking rate of 3.77 Lu per ha at the moment while silage ground is closed. 10 acres of this farm were closed for silage on the 11th of April. This ground had received 2500 gals of cattle slurry in late January, followed by 82 units of Protect Urea at closing.

Docks had become an issue last year on this out farm and we decided to spray the silage ground on the 28th April to control them as they were causing a drop in silage digestibility. By the 7th of May we had a good strike on the docks and by the 22nd of May the docks were almost completely controlled. The spray and the contractor charges worked out at €43 per acre.

We are aiming to bale this silage late May depending on the weather conditions and the sugar content of the grass. A refractomer is used to test the sugar content from a sample of the standing crop. Generally where sugars are low, nitrogen is still present in the sward so Newford aims for a sugar content of 3.5% to 4% to allow for a good preservation of the crop.

As a general rule of thumb, a good grass crop will use up 2 units of Nitrogen per day for the first cut, and even more during good growing conditions. However, silage ground grass growth depends on a number of factors such as how old the sward is, the soil fertility and the weather conditions after it is closed for silage. The grass was tested for its sugar content on the 22nd of May and it had a sugar content of 3.8%, meaning it was ready to be cut

The silage bales from these 10 acres will be fed back to the growing weanlings next winter so we are aiming to get excellent quality bales with a dry matter digestibility of over 75%. As most grass varieties have heading dates ranging from the last week in May to the second week in June, Iarlaith aims to have the silage cut before the grass heads out. So from mid-may Iarlaith keeps an eye on where the seed head is within the growing stem, to help him decide when the crop will be fit to cut.

The silage ground was cut and tossed out on the 25th of May. It got a 36 hour wilt, due to some misty rain here in the west after cutting and was baled on the 27th of May. After the first cut, the 10 acres will be closed again for a second cut and it will receive 2,500 gallons of cattle slurry and 2 bags of Protect Nitrogen 38N + 7% S per acre.

The 46 bullocks are approximately 490 Kgs at the moment, and these will be carried on the remaining 23 acres for the summer months. Iarlaith has the bullocks entering pre grazing grass covers of 1400Kg DM / Ha. If a paddock gets too strong it is skipped in the rotation and taken out as surplus silage bales to maintain high grazing quality and to get the farm cover back on track.