Grass silage is the dominant winter feed used on the vast majority of Irish farms today
Grass silage is the dominant winter feed used on the vast majority of Irish farms today.
It represents a large cost on farms today in terms of growing, ensiling and feeding.
Silage quality is key to good animal performance and reducing winter feed costs during the housing period. A silage sample is an excellent starting point in planning winter feeding and also determining what level of concentrate supplementation is needed.
What can your results tell you?
An ideal silage result will have the following; Dry Matter-25%, Dry Matter Digestibility (DMD)- 70%+, PH- 3.8 – 4.2, Crude Protein- 15% and Metabolisable Energy (ME)- >11.0 MJ KG DM.
Intake will be higher on high dry matter silages. The higher the dry matter the more protein and energy the animal will receive thus improving performance. It is vital to make your silage during dry weather conditions.
Dry Matter Digestibility
The dry matter digestibility is a measure of forage feeding value. Young perennial ryegrass swards cut for silage after 6 weeks of growth should have a DMD value of around 75% while older stemmier swards when cut would have a DMD value of approx. 60 - 65%.
The PH of the silage indicates how well it has preserved. Well preserved silage will result in increased animal intake and performance. Ammonia levels of less than 10% are also desirable while higher values indicate poor preservation and spoilage.
Crude protein levels reflect how mature the grass was at time of cutting with young leafy grass having values of 15% with older stemmy grasses having values of less than 10%. Low protein silage will need to be supplemented with higher protein rations to compensate for this.
The energy value of silage is expressed as the amount of energy contained in every kg of silage dry matter and a value of 11 ME is very desirable in the result.
Taking the sample
To get the most accurate result it is best to sample a number of freshly opened bales or take a number of samples from deep into your silage pit. The sample should be placed in a Ziploc type bag excluding air and sent to the Lab as soon as possible. Try to get your sample away at the start of the week as this should ensure that your sample is analysed as fast as possible and not left lying around over the weekend. A silage sample costs approximately €35 which is a small fee for vital information. Contact your local Teagasc Adviser/Agricultural Merchant to arrange sampling. 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 on Facebook @Teagasc roscommonlongford and twitter @teagascRNLD. Email; RoscommonLongford Advisory@teagasc.ie
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