By Debbie James

High quality big bale silage is helping a Pembrokeshire grassland farmer maximise returns from his heifer rearing contract by achieving winter growth rates on forage only.

Keith Williams reseeds all fields approximately every eight years and that, together with cutting grass when it is young, are key to producing silage that can supply all the energy and protein requirements of growing animals.

It is not rocket science, you have to plant good quality seed, you must be prepared to cut grass young and it must have a high D (digestibility) value I dont want to cut old grass that has been there for donkey's years, says Mr Williams, who farms at Haverhill Farm, Spittal, with his wife, Helen.

The couple sold their milking herd nine years ago and now rear pedigree Holstein heifer replacements for a local dairy farmer.

They sell two crops of standing silage to a neighbour and make around 950 big bales of silage a year as winter fodder for the 160 heifers which range in age from 12-23 months.

Barley is grown on contract annually to provide an opportunity for reseeding with intermediate and late heading ryegrasses with a high D value.

These varieties will wait for you for a while, but if you have grasses that head too early you are in trouble, especially when the weather is changeable, says Mr Williams.

As an experiment, a short-term ley was planted in 2018. We decided late in the year to reseed and I dont like direct re-seeding so we used a short-term seed mix, Keith explains.

That ley is performing well but to capture the quality it must be cut every four to five weeks.

Prior to first cut, 112kgs/ha of nitrogen and slurry is applied. This is followed immediately after harvesting with 90kgs/ha of N via an after-cut fertiliser product.

For the third cut, 75kg N, 25kg phosphate and 56kg potash are applied the third cut provides the bulk of the winter feed, says Mr Williams.

The first cut of big bales in 2020 was taken on April 20 cutting dates depend on the year, he doesnt have a set calendar date.

I dont look at the calendar, I look at the grass, the weather forecast and the rotation do I need to take a field out to have it fit to graze by a certain date.

Mr Williams has used the same contractor, Geoff Thomas, for 30 years.

Mowing is done at midday with a mower conditioner, when the grass sugars are at their highest, followed quickly by tedding.

The number of times a crop is tedded depends on the weather if it is warm and sunny it will only be done once but if there is more moisture it will be spread a second time.

The grass isnt chopped before it is formed into bales because cutting it unchopped has never caused a problem with fermentation and conservation.

The crop is baled within 48 hours with a Fusion baler, with six layers of wrap.

Although it costs more than wrapping with the standard four layers, Mr Williams says it results in less waste and he doesnt use an additive so this offsets the cost.

Bales are stacked on their side, because his bale handler is designed for that rather than a preference over upright stacking; the bales are stacked within hours of baling.

All bales are marked to identify which field they have been harvested from.

It gives you some interest in the winter, to see how the silage feeds out according to the conditions it was harvested in and the ley it was grown from, says Mr Williams.

Producing good quality silage results from good farming practice, including controlling moles and liming.

Mr Williams approach to growing good quality leys coupled with attention to detail at harvesting produced the winning entry in the 2020 All Wales Big Bale Silage competition, 30 years after he won the equivalent award for clamp silage.

His winning entry analysed at 33.3 per cent dry matter (DM), a D-value of 69 per cent, ME of 11 MJ/kg DM, and 16.9 per cent crude protein.

He says he has learned a great deal through his membership of the Federation of Welsh Grassland Societies (FWGS).

I have always used the same principles for making good silage and have learned all of those things through being a member of the North Pembrokeshire Grassland Society.

Continued here:
Revealed the secrets of super silage at west Wales farm - Wales Farmer

Related Post
November 23, 2020 at 7:55 am by Mr HomeBuilder
Category: Grass Seeding