The Secret's in the Science®

The Secret to producing award winning silage

24th May 2017 | News

Cutting grass at the correct time and getting good consolation in the clamp is the secret to producing award winning silage, according to one Staffordshire farmer.

James Burton, who farms along with his wife Joanna and parents Ken and Sue, was one of the winners in Agri-Lloyd’s silage competition, which saw him win £3,000 of prize money.

Milking 160 Holstein Friesian cows, with 40 dry cows and 100 heifer followers at Yew Tree Farm, Staffordshire, Mr Burton is getting more than half of his milk from forage with 4,500l from forage out of an average yield of 8,500l.

He says forage is central to his farming system, as it keeps the cost of production down.

“Silage is the cheapest crop and has got to be made the best it can, otherwise it will cost you a fortune in concentrates,” he says.

Last year he began silaging on 14th May, with 150 acres set aside for first cut and 80 acres for second cut. Sometimes he does third cut from 40-50 acres.

Before cutting he takes a grass sample and gets it analysed through Agri-Lloyd’s free pre-cut grass service, which guides him on when he should cut the grass.

By taking into account the results from the pre-cut grass service and also the weather he will then decide when to cut.

Mr Burton does all his own silaging, which allows him to take his time and get the most from the grass.

He says: “The secret to good silage is to get the air out as quick as you can by plenty of rolling. We own our own mower, chopper and trailer, which allows us to bring it in nice and steady.

“We make sure we have a good man on the buckrake with plenty of rolling to ensure good consolation in the clamp. We also try not to mow until midday as that’s when the sugars are at their highest,” he says.

Mr Burton then applies Agri-Lloyd’s HM Inoculant, which gets the grass fermenting quicker and retains more of the nutrients.

“We’ve been using HM Inoculant for as long as I can remember, it is a crucial element of the silage,” he says.

Last year his silage analysed at DM 40, CP 15.4%, D value 78, ME 12.6, sugars 4.2, ash 9.8, oil 4.8, which is fed in a TMR all year round.

James Ireland, dairy product manager at Agri-Lloyd, says protein and energy are the most expensive things to buy in, so by using HM Inoculant and creating a rapid fermentation in the clamp it can help reduce the loss of energy and protein in the forage.

“HM Inoculant helps preserve the protein in the silage. It has three strains of bacteria, which all work at different pH’s. It can essentially turn grass into silage within a week.

“Because it speeds up fermentation, it means you get less loss of nutrients,” he adds.

Mr Burton was picked as one of the winners, not only because of his good silage results, but also because of his attention to detail when it comes to silaging and clamp management.

A shortlist of finalists were drawn from over 700 samples of grass analysed from across the UK. A point system was used to score the silage samples and then the top 50 samples were then analysed in greater detail.

Ten finalists were then visited by a judging panel, which included Mr Ireland, Dr Joe Youdan and independent judge David Hodgson, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry.