Grass silage is the main winter feed for dairy farmers, getting this right will help increase milk yields. There are a few key things to get right when making grass silage, stage of growth, grass ley, sunlight, wilting, chop length, and silage additive. If you get most of these things right you will get good grass silage.
Research has found that shorter chop length will increase milk yields, this is because cows will increase intakes and they will decrease sorting. FeedCo would recommend chopping grass forage to 18-20mm. With this average length there will be enough longer particles over 20mm, without getting too long so lowering intakes and risking sorting. For reference a 5 pence piece is 19mm.
David Moore runs the family farm with his children Robert, Lewis and Meredith, at West Moor Farm, near Woolsery. West Moor is home to 300 head of dairy cows in a housed system, and milked twice a day. David runs the farm as a flying herd as well as helping with the family contracting business. Robert is the herdsmen and takes pride in looking after all the cows. Lewis feeds all the animals on the farm and has currently updated to a Keenan feeder wagon with the pace software. Meredith looks after all calves and helps out milking.
Since December 2016 Adam Sanders FeedCo nutritionist has been working alongside the Moore family to help increase animal performance. Cows are currently averaging 32L at 4.1 butterfat and 3.3 protein, and have just reached the impressive milestone of a rolling annual average of 10,000 litres sold/cow. Cows are fed with a Keenan feeder wagon and are topped up with cake in out of parlour feeders. The TMR ration consists of grass silage, maize silage, and home-grown cereal, balanced with a FeedCo blend.
Moore’s cows are up by one thousand litres per cow on annual average, and a significant factor in this improvement was the move to reduce chop length on their grass silage – the forager was set at 15mm which produced average chop length in the 15-20mm range recommended by FeedCo. First cut was started on the 8th May no earlier or later than usual, second cut silage followed six weeks later. Feeding 2016’s maize silage ended in June and it was replaced with ground grain maize, this year’s crop was cut on the 13th October. Shorter chop length at Westmoor has created superior and sustained forage intakes throughout the year. The result of this has been to minimize the effect of forage changes, allowing cows to thrive in the consistency that brings higher milk yields.
FeedCo would like to congratulate the Moore’s on their milestone brought about by impressive attention to detail and dedication. We also really want to encourage farmers, as another forage season fast approaches, to plan to chop their forage to 18-20mm to improve cow performance.