On dairy-beef farms, it is time to think about securing next winter’s silage crop.
With concentrate feed prices looking set to be a lot more expensive than this year, it has never been more important for farmers to insulate themselves from meal prices by having a bank of high-quality grass silage in the yard for next winter.
The margins in dairy-beef systems are tight but if they are to have any chance of being positive, it relies on good grassland management throughout the year and top-quality grass silage over the winter months.
These combined will lower, if not completely eliminate the need for concentrates in the diet.
If fertiliser usage is reduced on the grazing platform, overall grass growth rates are also going to be reduced
Over the first winter period, a minimum silage quality being fed to stock should be 70% DMD. In an ideal world, you would be working with 75% DMD silage, meaning you could get away with feeding no meal over the first winter.
While this top-quality silage is often made from paddocks of surplus grazing on dairy-beef farms, this year may be different. If fertiliser usage is reduced on the grazing platform, overall grass growth rates are also going to be reduced. Therefore the same surplus of grass may not be available to cut for baled silage.
Plan now for silage requirements next winter. A typical dairy-beef animals will require between 3.5 and 4 bales of silage over the course of a five month winter. This includes a 10% buffer to have in reserve.
On farms operating solely diary-beef systems, the demand for grass in the first half of the season is quite low. It is therefore, easier to close a greater proportion of the farm for first-cut silage which will allow for more grazing area to be available when needed later in the season.
Closing silage ground in the coming week will see it fit for baling in late-May, prior to any seed heads coming out
A farmer with 30 dairy-beef cattle over the first winter will require around 120 bales of silage. Obviously when aiming for top-quality silage, the yield per acre is going to be lower. Aim for five to six bales per acre. This means there is a requirement of around 24 acres for silage.
Some of this will be made from surplus grazing, but it is best to error on the side of caution. Closing silage ground in the coming week will see it fit for baling in late-May, prior to any seed heads coming out.
In the case of the example above, 14 acres of silage ground should be targeted for first cut silage, leaving a requirement of six acres needed for a second cut assuming four acres of surplus bales will be cut during the season.