Wet weather will impact silage harvest

By Jamie Salter

Many dairy regions, particularly in south-eastern Australia, are currently dealing with quite wet winter conditions and this will likely have an impact in spring when it comes to silage harvesting.

Dealing with wet conditions at silage harvest is a matter of managing and adapting to minimise the impact on silage yield and quality, as well as the management of those paddocks for the remainder of the season.

There are no easy solutions, but the following tips might help:

● Think about where you can select ‘drier paddocks’ on your farm that might be ready for silage a bit earlier and try manipulating the grazing rotation so that these paddocks are the ones dropped out of the rotation first for silage.

● Use a tedder at harvest to increase the drying process and reach target dry matter percentage quicker (more than 30 per cent dry matter for pit silage and more than 40 per cent for baled silage). Set the tynes higher when tedding a previously pugged paddock to avoid mixing dirt with the mowed grass.

● Be flexible and proactive in spring — if a few days of dry weather present an opportunity to conserve surplus pasture earlier than expected, be prepared to take advantage of it.

● Try and avoid making silage from severely pugged paddocks with divots greater than 5 cm (see picture one); these will have poorer quality pasture, and grass will have more mud and dirt on the leaves (which results in poorer fermentation and bad quality silage).

● Much of the grass will be rotting, even if it becomes dry enough to travel on this ground with machinery later in spring — it may be better to graze these paddocks through spring and use them for a summer crop if possible, or earmark for resowing.

● For medium pugging damage with 2 cm to 5 cm divots (shown in figure two) — these kinds of paddocks can be an option for silage, but it will still be affected by mud and dirt on the leaves.

● Getting onto the paddock with machinery without too much damage is the biggest challenge and using an additive on ground like this to aid fermentation will be beneficial. If using an additive, make sure to apply at the recommended rate.

● Picture three shows minimal pugging damage (less than 2 cm divots in the soil). This kind of ground should be treated as normal when it comes to silage harvest. Cutting as early as you can will improve the nutritive value of the silage.

- Dairy Australia Feedbase and Animal Nutrition lead Ruairi McDonnell

Dairy Australia will host a webinar on spring silage on Thursday, July 30, from 12 pm to 1.15 pm.

To register, contact your local Dairy Australia Regional Development Program.