The ideal grazing conditions of September and October ended abruptly as heavy rains hit the whole country for several weeks in recent weeks. Heavy rains across the country.
All farms still have a dense grass cover, but soil conditions have deteriorated, making this grass difficult to graze.
Ungrassed covers will affect the quality of the turf next spring. In many cases, the deluge forced all stocks to be moved indoors within a short period of time, without many companies having to forego proper housing.
Jobs like vaccinations and back/tail clipping are only now being caught up and are more difficult if the cattle housing window is missed.
In addition, the exceptionally mild temperatures of recent times have increased the risk of viral infection.
Back clipping can bring great relief to cattle by helping to reduce the likelihood of sweating and overheating. As one farmer recently told me, “It’s a dirty job, but the upswing the cattle get is thriving and healthy, which helps reduce the overall time they spend on the farm.”
While farms suffering from summer drought had already opened pits, most of the silage has only recently opened.
Each year has its trends in silage quality and quantity, which are generally based on growing season weather patterns.
Those lucky enough to make their first cut silage in the late April and early May window appear to be reaping the rewards now.
Although these silages have a low dry matter content, they have excellent nutritional value. Many have more than 75pc DMD on average.
I first saw silage analyzed at 82% DMD in Ireland! The last time I saw silage of this type was on a Dutch dairy farm that uses a six-cut system.
While the yield of this type of silage is 25% less than regular first cuts, the savings in concentrate use and cost this winter will be significant. With this type of grass silage it is possible to fatten cattle with 4 kg of concentrate.
The majority of first cut silages, especially those cut in late May and early June, are not of comparable quality. While they are slightly drier, both energy and protein levels are lower.
Dry matter digestibility values of 65-68pc are common. These silages require a higher concentrate supplement.
Mature heifers and steers require at least 7 kg of concentrate to achieve a correct finish. If not adequately supplemented with concentrates, cattle fed this type of silage will kill very poorly, at least 2 percent less than expected.
Examining kill reports on some farms, early-culled continental cattle fed poor-quality first-cut silage killed an average of 53 percent of the animals, while dairy herds fed the same silage killed an average of 48 percent.
Second-cut silage suffered from dry growing conditions on many farms. Yield was low but dry matter content and overall quality seem to be quite good.
If possible, dry second silage is the ideal supplement to feeding with first cuts with a lower dry matter content.
These dry silages pose a challenge to pit wall management as forage spoilage is common.
Visible mold formation poses a major challenge to the animals’ digestive system. Toxins produced by these molds affect overall feed efficiency, health and performance.
Feed a suitable mycotoxin binder if there is mold in the silage. These attach to harmful toxins in the rumen and ensure their safe passage through the digestive system, excreting them in the manure.
There are different forms of binders — charcoal, clay, and yeast-based — each with different modes of action and working with different toxins.
The most common binders are based on yeast, which covers a broader spectrum of toxins, while the yeast component also helps improve overall rumen conditions. Binders can be fed directly or incorporated into a concentrate or mineral/vitamin supplement.
Regardless of the method, the correct feed rate is very important.
Gerry Giggins is an animal nutritionist based in Co Louth
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/beef/beef-advice/gerry-giggins-how-good-is-your-silage-and-how-much-concentrate-do-you-need-to-supplement-it-with-42155003.html Gerry Giggins: How good is your silage – and how much concentrate do you need to supplement it with?