Farmers across the UK are aware that an extremely poor winter has left growing conditions behind where they need to be – up to 4 weeks as estimated by CF, the UK’s compound fertiliser manufacturer.

Dependant on the area of the country you farm, there has been recorded extra rainfall of 1.5 to over 10 inches between September and 10th April, said Mark Garret, CF account manager.

“Grass growth as we all know is behind, however AHDB showed recently that this is substantial, at between 20 and 25Kg DM/ha/day up to the 13th April.”

With grass volume behind where it needs to be, and a decision to be made on 1st cut cutting date, the main message would be to “cut for quality, then keep cutting to get bulk.”

This would go against the temptation to delay the 1st cutting date in order to achieve a bulkier cut. 

“Grass maturity (heading) depends on day length, independent of weather, in essence, heading around the same date, so cutting later and leaving the crop to bulk up will have major implications on quality.  This is especially risky if farmers will look to get the same volume of 1st cut as normal, or are on a 1 cut system.”

Delaying 1st cut date, can also have consequences of shortening the window for fertiliser application/grass growth on 2nd and possible 3rd or 4th cut strategies, which would have the effect of reducing overall bulk and quality at each subsequent cut.

Of course leaving 1st cut to bulk, with a reduced energy content, will mean having to feed a higher volume of concentrates to achieve the same level of milk volume when the silage comes to be fed.  A 1 MJ/Kg of Dry Matter decrease in silage, for example 11.5 ME to 10.5 ME, will mean a potential reduction in energy worth 2.4 litres, or 1 to 1.5Kg’s of extra Concentrate required for the same volume of Milk required.

Mark suggested that an increased rate of 2.5Kg/N/ha/day should be the plan for 2nd cut application, allowing farms to go for a larger volume, making up any shortfalls in 1st cut already in the pit.

Again, with short windows between more cuts, it is extremely important where possible to apply Nitrogen as soon as the previous crop has been removed, “delaying application of 2nd cut fertiliser for 14 days post removal of 1st cut can result in 1 tonne of Dry Matter lost per hectare,” said Mark.

“As ever, it may be worth speaking to your local FACTS qualified adviser to devise the best plan to minimise Silage quality or volume losses this silage season,” advised Jim McMullan, Galloway & Macleod’s fertiliser manager.

Contact G&M to speak to one of our 3 qualified FACTS advisers today