Updated 2017 silage quality analyses show that the initial promise of early first cut samples has been maintained, while second cut is of higher quality and wholecrop silages are analysing well, reports Trouw Nutrition GB.

With over 3,500 first cut samples now analysed, the company’s ruminant technical development manager Dr Liz Homer says that while there is the usual range in results, average 2017 crops have a higher dry matter, crude protein content and energy level than in 2016.  NDF levels are lower, reflecting the earlier harvesting, while pH is slightly elevated.

“On the traditional ME basis, first cuts are averaging 11ME, while on the more accurate Dynamic Energy approach they are coming in at 6.22MJ,” she notes.

Second cut silages are identical to first cut with better dry matter, energy and protein scores but reduced NDF.   Wholecrop forages are generally less variable year-on-year and with analyses very close to previous years, will providing a useful starch-based forage.

Average 2017 silage analysis results (to September)

First Cut Grass Second cut grass Wholecrop
Dry Matter (%) 33.2 33.5 40.6
Crude Protein (%) 14.8 15.0 9.1
Starch (%) 24.9
ME (MJ/kgDM) 10.9 10.5 10.2
NDF (%) 46.6 48.5 43.0
pH 4.3 4.4 4.1
Acid load 47 44 48
Fibre Index 188 196 182
Dynamic Energy (MJ/kgDM) 6.22 6.27 5.21

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Source: Trouw Nutrition GB

Speaking at Dairy UK this week, Dr Homer said the key will be to balance diets to exploit the potential in the silages.  “Provided diets are carefully formulated to balance silages and to maintain good rumen health then there is a tremendous opportunity for herd managers and their advisers to increase milk from forage and improve margins.

“In 2016 diets needed bypass protein from sources such as bypass soya and slowly fermented carbohydrate so feeds like sugar beet pulp and soya hulls were a good choice.  This year the need is for fermentable protein sources, possibly from a mix of soya, rape and possibly even urea while more bypass starch will be needed suggesting maize could replace some wheat.  This will also help reduce the risk of high acid load and its negative effect on rumen health.

“By feeding the correct supplements it will be possible to capitalise on the value of forages and reduce overall feed costs this winter,” Dr Homer concluded.