While it is not a problem that is faced very often, or indeed by every farmer this year, there are reports of some very dry first-cut silage stocks in yards this year.
A slow start to the growing season saw first-cut yields reduced in many cases.
Add to this the fact that some farmers went with a second application of fertiliser later on where they felt it was needed, which led to longer wilting periods needed at harvest to ensure nitrogen levels in the grass were sufficiently low.
Lighter yields wilted for 12 to 24 hours longer than typical can have a significant effect on the dry matter of the resulting silage.
Feeding dry silage
When we speak about dry silage, we are typically talking of dry matters above 40%. Feeding this silage to finishing stock alongside 5kg to 6kg of concentrates (concentrates have a dry matter [DM] percentage in the mid- to high-80s) can lead to a very dry total diet.
Cattle eat in dry matter terms. This means that a very dry total diet can lead to a drop in daily feed intake. A decrease in intake will lead to lower liveweight gains. To overcome this problem, there are two possible solutions.
Where a total mixed ration (TMR) is being fed, water can be added to the mix to reduce the overall dry matter of the diet.
While this may sound counterproductive when we are trying to deliver a high energy diet to drive liveweight gain, the increase in daily intake will benefit this gain.
Some farmers have asked about adding molasses to the diet to reduce the DM and help drive energy intake at the same time. However, molasses is actually a high DM feed (74% DM) and will not offer a solution to very high DM diets.
Mixing silage cuts
A more simple solution may be to use a mixture of bales where multiple cuts were made. Use a mix of both dry and wetter bales to balance out the diet.
When feeding dry silage, you must also make sure that a good supply of fresh water is available to animals at all times. If you are seeing a queue for the water trough, then water supply may not be sufficient.