The glamorous world of silage!

Silage. Not something I thought I would be blogging about, but it’s such an important job on the farm as the silage we prepare this year will be a key ingredient for feeding our herds next year. What we do now has long term consequences. There’s more that goes on than just cutting and heaping grass, so here’s a short blog to share a little knowledge!

Silage is predominantly made from grass crop, but legumes, forage maize, other cereals, kale and fodder beet are also used. Grass is the cheapest source of food for livestock, and is the best way to offer the energy, protein, vitamins and minerals they required. In basic terms, silage is the process of ‘anaerobic fermentation’, or fermentation without air. The rate of speed of which air can be excluded will determine the success of the whole operation.

In order to be able to feed our livestock over the winter, it’s our objective to produce a good silage which is light brown in colour, with little smell and has a sharp taste (if you fancy giving it a try!). Did you know that we can send off our silage for a palatability test! This checks the acidity levels as it needs to be at an ideal level for the digestive system for the cows and sheep on our farm. In a well fermented silage the concentration of acids will reach a peak after less than a week and the pH level will stabilise at around 4.

Dry, sunny conditions are obviously the preferred conditions for silage making as grass sugar levels are likely to be at their highest in sunny weather so the last few weeks have been perfect! Our process is to cut the crop, wilt it for 24 hours to dry it out and increase fermentation, then to get baling, clamping or wrapping. Timing is so important during the entire process. Mistakes are costly!

We are very lucky to have access to such sophisticated machinery on the farm for this operation. Our efficient machines can make an entire cut of first cut silage in a couple of days, a job which only 40 years ago could have taken weeks!

In a recent blog I wrote about the problems of black grass on the farm, and growing grass in a rotation of 3-5 years can help prevent this weed appearing in its masses. So, there’s lot of benefits in getting this just right!

Tune in next time for another blog in the glamorous world of littleseed Farm!

Alex Oates