Forage Quality This Winter

As the majority of herds are partially housing cows and buffering quite heavily, we have had the opportunity to open clamps and hopefully come up with a plan for the winter. Many of you will have probably cast your eye across the silage results that have been printed in the national press over the last few months and even had a chance to sit down and compare your silages to the published figures.

So what are the headlines, well this year has been a good silage year, and In most cases there has been far more of it than last year. Qualities are good especially on the first cuts. So that’s fine then.

Well I thought we ought to have a closer look at regional results as basing our thoughts from silage in Scotland and Cheshire is probably not the best way of getting a feel for how our silage is going to feed this winter.

Table 1

Winter Forage Quality

Table 2

silage chart

Table 3

Table 1 shows how well the silages have fermented. On the whole they look pretty sensible with no real differences from the national averages. There is some consideration to be given to the lactic acid levels which have been high in some of our regional analysis which may well cause a few issues from a rumen stability point of view, we will come back to this in a bit. 

Table 2 shows the standard silage parameters we are all used to, showing nothing startling in terms of differences in the south west. This said protein contents are lower in 1st and 2nd cuts than national average, with a 1% difference in 2nd cuts. Energy levels are also slightly lower than the national average but still very respectable.

Table 3 shows that if we drill down in to the figures a bit more closely using table 3 we can see a few key regional differences which need to be addressed if we are to make the most out of this years silages.

Back to protein the Rapidly fermentable protein (RFP) are much lower than the national figures and combined with the higher fermentable carbohydrate figures seen in the south west is on average creating silages that will need supplementation of degradable protein to get the most out of the diets.

This is illustrated by the low NFEPB (Fermentable Energy Protein Balance) which shows that first cuts are especially affected this year.
If this is corrected however then the Energy Potential (DYNE in red) from these silages are higher in our region than the national average. It also suggests that if correctly balanced the difference between 1st and 2nd cut will be very small.

One last point to note are the acid loading figures, 2nd cuts look pretty normal, buts 1st cuts are quite high so this needs to be taken into account when formulating this year as this could cause a few unexpected problems with sara.

As with all averages we need to be careful as they hide a multitude of scenarios, but these things are worth bearing in mind when making decisions about your feeding strategy for this winter.

Matt Rance

Whilst Matt is the technical manager of our forage services team he is also part of our ruminant technical team. Matt’s background is in dairy consultancy and practical farm management, and he joins our team to help us provide our customers with a holistic approach to feeding livestock by bringing together nutrition and innovative grassland management.