Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
Early first cut silage results are analysing well – which should provide some welcome relief following a challenging winter and spring. At 11.2MJ/kg, average... Welcome relief from early first cut silage

Early first cut silage results are analysing well – which should provide some welcome relief following a challenging winter and spring.

At 11.2MJ/kg, average metabolisable energy (ME) levels appear similar to last year. At 31.5%, so too do average dry matter levels. But the ration of lactic acid to volatile fatty acid appears improved at 3.8 – double last year’s value.

“Despite a very challenging spring with generally lower grass growth rates and grass quality, early first cut grass samples are very promising, which should mean cows will milk well,” says Robin Hawkey, nutritionist for Mole Valley Feed Solutions.

The analysis is based on a small number of farms located mostly in south-west England. But Dr Hawkey says the results nevertheless offer a valuable early snapshot of forage availability ahead of winter.

Results may well change as the season progresses – and the picture will also vary depending on where farms are located and when they cut silage. Even so the figures still look promising.

“This highlights a better type of fermentation in the clamp, which means silage will keep well,” explains Dr Hawkey. “Lactic acid is also a better form of energy in the rumen which will help support milk production.”

Lactic acid could put pressure on the rumen. But slightly higher Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF) levels may encourage rumen health. This may work in farmers’ favour, reducing the need for straw, which is in low supply and high cost.

Surprisingly good

At 15%, crude protein levels are also surprisingly good considering many farmers had difficulty applying nitrogen due to the wet spring and sodden fields. Some producers didn’t apply nitrogen at all.

All producers should assess the quantity and quality of their first cut silage stocks and use this to establish a forage plan for the season ahead, says Dr Hawkey. This will determine whether the focus is on quantity or quality for subsequent cuts.

“Many farmers were forced to open maize clamps early last autumn to support milk production. If a forage audit shows stocks are tight and you have cereals on farm, it might be worth whole cropping rather than combining to bridge the starch gap.”

“Every farm will be in a different situation. What’s important is knowing what you’ve got and making a plan accordingly.”

Bluetongue: free tests now available in high-risk areas

Free bluetongue testing is available to farmers moving ruminants out of the high-risk counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Livestock producers can apply to Defra for free, voluntary testing if they plan to move ruminants out of the three counties – or sell them at a market within a high-risk county where there will be buyers from outside the high-risk counties.

How it works

Farmers should apply for free testing at least 10 working days before the planned movement or market date. A vet should sample your animals five working days before the move or market to allow time to get results.

Defra says farmers can apply for either free sampling and testing; or free testing only and pay for sampling from a private vet. Vets will then send samples to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) or Pirbright Institute for analysis.

The vet will come to your premises alone. Any animals to be sampled should be permanently marked – such as with an official ear tag – and held securely in suitable handling facilities.

Farmers should ensure there are enough people available to round up animals to be tested and present them for sampling.

If results are positive, APHA will contact you and place your premises under restriction while they investigate further. This means you will only be able to move susceptible animals and their germinal products off your premises with a licence.

If results are delayed past the planned move or market date, you can move your animals without waiting for the results. This is because this testing is voluntary. But the APHA strongly advises against this.