Friday, 4 April 2014

Steps to Silage Making - Part 1

Silage is the key winter feed in this part of the world and on many goat farms, provides the chief form of forage all year round.  Putting the correct steps in place at this time of year will provide sufficient quantities of high quality silage for your goats.  High quality silage also plays a key role in reducing feed costs as less concentrates are required.  It has been shown that silage quality has significant effects on feed intake, milk yield, milk quality and body condition score in goats. 
 
Step 1. Have a plan
 
Farmers that consistently make good quality silage always have a plan in place.  This requires short term planning (e.g. spring management and fertiliser application) and long term planning (e.g. sward quality, soil fertility) to maximise yield  and quantity of silage.
 
Step 2.  Check soil fertility
 
Studies have shown that soil P & K concentrations as well as pH (lime requirement) have been depleted in recent years. This is reflected in sub-optimal grass growth and consequently light yields at target harvest dates. 
 
Step 3. Establish targets for silage quality

This will vary depending on the type of animal being fed with low productivity animals needing poorer quality silage than high performance animals.  Therefore a suckled meat goat herd kidding in Spring will require lower quality silage (65 DMD) than high yielding lactating goats (75DMD). 
 
Step 4. Graze out the silage fields.

Graze silage swards short in late Autumn, or graze them in Spring to avoid a build-up of a low digestibility butt.   The dead butt has a digestibility of just 40-50% which will have a negative effect on silage DMD. Typically dairy goat herds are not grazed outdoors therefore try to take a cut of grass off your silage area before applying fertiliser for silage.

Step 5. Spread Fertiliser

1. Apply total nitrogen (N) at from 115-150 kg/ha or (92-120 units/acre) for old and reseeded pastures, respectively. This can be done from the combined input of bagged fertiliser (e.g. CAN, urea, etc.) and slurry.   However, most goat farms will not have access to slurry and therefore must concentrate on using bagged fertiliser.

2. Apply fertiliser evenly and as early as feasible

3. Slurry (where available) should only be spread on bare stubble or very short grass

4. There is little real advantage to the silage sward from splitting the application of N fertiliser.