Every year brings its challenges and, so far, 2018 has been more challenging than most! You probably don’t need reminding of the long, wet winter and cold, late spring that depleted forage reserves to their lowest level in years. This, followed by the summer’s extraordinary drought conditions, means that there are very few livestock farmers who have no concerns about forage stocks for the coming year.

Hopefully there will be some late cuts of grass which could help fill clamps, and, as you will see from Dr Davies’ article these are likely to present their own challenges in terms of effective preservation. 

Maize crops have also been affected by the drought conditions in many areas, so, although the hot weather may help cob formation and final starch levels, overall yields could be lower than usual. This year, more than ever before, making the effort to preserve every bit of forage dry matter possible has to be the priority and so we make no apologies for repeating the advice on efficient forage preservation that we have given in previous issues of KnowHow.

If you have a genuine interest in getting more from the silage you are able to make and have not yet joined the many UK farmers who are already benefiting from using the complete Kelvin Cave Ltd ensiling package, please read on.

Good clamp management, from filling to feed out, should be the number one consideration. Start with a clean clamp and clean machinery. Remove all old silage residues and other detritus like soil, manure etc. on tractor and loader wheels, because these can inoculate the new crop with huge quantities of harmful microorganisms which can affect the fermentation adversely and could increase the risk of mycotoxin formation. Line the clamp walls with good quality side sheets – it is virtually impossible to seal a clamp properly without these!

Maize is generally a high dry matter crop (30%+), so compacting it really well in the clamp to remove as much air as possible and to reduce air penetration during feed-out is essential. As hundreds of UK farmers have already discovered, using a SilaPactor for this job saves fuel (3 metre width compacted with each pass) and makes the job of the buck rake/loader operator quicker and easier.

Applying Safesil Pro as the maize crop is harvested has proved invaluable in minimising DM losses on all livestock farms. Supplied as a ready-to-use liquid and applied at 1.5 litres/tonne Safesil Pro is safe and easy to use.

Trials conducted on 31% DM UK maize silage (D Davies 2016) demonstrate the real
economic value of minimising energy and DM losses during fermentation and the feedout period. Fermentation DM losses were 3.15% for untreated silage and 3.01% in Safesil Pro- treated. After 3 days’ exposure to air 0.68 MJ ME/kg DM was lost in the untreated silage and 0.27 MJ ME/kg DM in the treated, a difference of 0.41 MJ ME/kg DM. From these measurements it is possible to put a true value, in terms of potential extra milk production and income, on what is often perceived by farmers as ‘a very expensive and unnecessary’ silage treatment.

With Safesil costing £1.61/litre and an application rate of 1.5 litres/t FW the treatment cost for the 31% DM maize is £7.79/t DM.

Taking a cost of £123/t DM for maize silage (AHDB costs) and 6kg DM maize silage fed/cow/day as part of a balanced ration as our starting point, 100 cows will eat 0.6 tonnes of maize DM per day. The value of fermentation and energy losses can be calculated as follows:

Fermentation losses

Untreated 3.15% DM loss = 31.5kg/t = £3.87

Safesil-treated 3.01% DM loss = 30.1kg/t = £3.70

So, in this case, Safesil treatment saves £0.17/t DM during the fermentation period.

Energy losses

3 days’ aerobic spoilage resulted in 0.68 MJ ME/kg DM being lost in the untreated silage and 0.27 MJ ME/kg DM lost in the Safesil-treated, a difference of 0.41 MJ ME/kg DM.

Value of increased production

600kg maize silage DM cost £4.67/100 cows/day to treat (779/1000×600) with lower losses due to treatment equalling £10.20/100 cows/day (17/1000×600).

600kg DM fed x 0.41 MJ ME = 246 MJ ME more/100 cows/day when the treated silage is fed. So, using the standard of 5 MJ ME to produce 1 litre of milk, the treated silage will produce 49.0 litres more milk/100 cows/day than the untreated. At £0.28/ltr this represents £13.72/100 cows/day more when the treated silage is fed.

So, taking everything into account, the cost of Safesil – £4.67 to treat 600kg DM @31% DM – more silage DM retained and more milk from each kilo of DM due to extra energy retained, the extra daily milk income from 100 cows is £19.25; ((£13.72 + £10.20)-£4.67 = £19.25) a daily return on investment of 412%!

While these calculations are purely theoretical they are based on sound scientific evidence which, as numerous trials and an ever-increasing number of livestock farmers in the UK have shown, can help to reduce concentrate bills and increase production of both milk and meat from home-grown forage.

Finally, don’t forget that good silage needs good sealing. Excluding oxygen from the clamp is vital, so sealing with O2 Barrier 2in1 sheeting and protecting the sheet with ClampNet and/or ClampTiles will really ensure that you maximise the quantity of forage DM you have to feed.

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