Grassland & Silage Toolkit March 2020

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Grassland & Silage Toolkit Your essential guide to grassland and grass silage management

TEDDING AND RAKING Backbone to silage success

Controlled Traffic Farming

March 2020

Weed control

Expert advice on weed control in clover swards

Case studies

Lucerne helps boost farm’s sustainability and how additive safeguards silage quality

Limiting soil compaction

Benefits of home-grown haylage

Reducing ammonia emissions

A Dairy Farmer publication in association with:

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elcome to the Grassland & Silage Toolkit which is packed to the brim with useful tips on improving forage production and utilisation. After all, the fundamental goal we are all seeking is to lift margins by making a better job of growing our cheapest feedstuffs.

Did you know, for example, that microbes in compacted soils can ‘steal’ oxygen from any applied nitrates, thereby reducing fertiliser efficacy and emitting the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide? Our first article on Controlled Traffic Farming (p4) shows that nitrogen uptake falls by 19% on compacted soil and that by managing heavy over-ground traffic, DM/ha can be increased by 10%. And did you know that leys with white clover getting restricted nitrogen applications can produce the same amount as perennial ryegrass swards receiving 250kg/ha, and that cows on the clover swards produced extra milk solids per cow per year? See p6. Weed control in clover swards is a notoriously difficult operation to get right, however a new agronomy solution is now available. See p8. With issues increasingly being raised about the sustainability of imported soya, the next question is can we grow more home-produced protein? On p10 we look at how one Leicestershire producer is round baling lucerne to give him a 22% CP feedstuff, and how he plans to grow enough to feed a lucerne/maize mix to his cows all year round. On the health front, it is increasingly being realised that lactational success is determined in the previous dry period, and we look at one 370-cow Scottish producer who has taken on DCAB by growing low potassium haylage to dramatically decrease his milk fever cases. See p26. Finally, with impending tighter regulations on greenhouse gases, did you know that dairy cattle account for 28% of UK agriculture’s ammonia emissions, and that up to 45% of the N in urea can be lost as ammonia? Details on p13. Growing forage crops and utilising them to the full are things we can all improve on, and we hope that the following pages will give you a few helpful pointers along that path. Peter Hollinshead Editor, Dairy Farmer

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Limiting compaction at silage-making






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CTF in practice on-farm Managing clover in grazing swards


Tackling weeds in clover swards


Lucerne reduces reliance on bought-in protein


Fertiliser choice and application advice

AUTUMN HERBICIDE APPLICATION Time to rethink herbicide timings


Five-step weed control plan for a new reseed






How to save time at silage-making Additive safeguards silage quality


Trials work reveals additive benefits





Considerations for silage success Multiple benefits of home-grown haylage

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Controlled Traffic Farming Adopting Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) could help reduce soil compaction risk and boost yields by up to 10.5%, while also reducing nitrous oxide emissions.

Limiting compaction at silage-making


rassland farmers could benefit from adopting an ‘arable mindset’ and controlling the movements of machinery across fields as a means of limiting compaction and maximising grass yields. This is according to Dr Paul Hargreaves, grassland researcher for SRUC, who has just completed a three-year study looking at CTF on silage ground. His

Dr Paul Hargreaves

results show grassland farmers could expect a yield increase of 8.5-10.5% by following a

Controlled Traffic Farming - the benefits in numbers


The increase in dry matter yield per hectare seen from adopting CTF, compared to conventional travel (which N is applied)

62% +1.8kg N20 N ha-1 more N20 (a greenhouse gas) was emitted over three years from the compacted plots

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23% The wheeled areas on the controlled traffic system yielded 23% less than the non-wheeled area on the CTS

N2O emissions from tractor compacted plots were 62% greater than non-compacted plots over a three-year experiment

-19% N uptake was 19% less on the tractor compacted plots than the non-compacted plots

CTF system, while nitrogen use efficiency will also be improved (see graphic). Rather than driving anywhere on a field, CTF means machines follow set wheel marks which run parallel to the line of trajection and then around the headland. “It’s about trying to control the movements of machinery around a field to limit the area they cover and running all machinery along similar wheelings. It’s trying to think of grass as an arable crop,” says Dr Hargreaves. SRUC trial work found that about 83% of a field cut three times using a forage harvester, with slurry applied, will be covered in wheelings on a traditional system. These wheelings will suffer from soil compaction and therefore reduced yields. On a CTF system, the area covered in wheelings will reduce to about 19%.

Trial The three-year trial at SRUC looked at long-term performance of a perennial ryegrass and red clover ley, which was established at the start of the trial. They looked at different nitrogen application rates and compared CTF and non-CTF. In the non-CTF strips, machinery was driven wherever they wanted. On the CTF strips, the fertiliser and slurry spreaders, mower, tedder,

The distance between forager and trailer will increase with CTF (righthand graphic) so particular care will need to be taken at harvest.

rake and forager, all followed a nine-metre working width. Dr Hargreaves was keen to see the damage caused to the wheelings on the CTF system over the three years. Although there was an increase in soil bulk density and reduced porosity, he says there was ‘limited damage’ and no issues with water run-off from these areas. “So far, we’ve seen a reduction in yield on those wheelings

Why is compaction a problem? JYara’s Philip Cosgrave believes limiting soil compaction should form part of an holistic approach to soil management which should also look at pH and maintaining key nutrients such as potash and phosphate. He says there are some key reasons why compaction should be avoided: n Prevents water infiltration – resulting in wet soils which take longer to drain

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g Operating Controlled Traffic Farming JTo operate CTF, Dr Hargreaves suggests thinking about the following: What is the smallest working width of all your machinery? If your smallest working width is nine metres, all equipment needs to work within this. This includes the slurry spreader, tedder and mower, etc. This means machinery will have to work along three-metre-wide tyre tracks in the field. Split up fields Divide the width of each field by the working width of your machinery. If a field is 135 metres wide and your smallest working width is nine, split it into 15 lines. If you end up travelling more on certain areas of the field, make a note of it and target soil improvement work in this area. Use technology Dr Hargreaves believes GPS and auto-steering technology is essential to do CTF properly. However, as a


2 and the red clover has disappeared entirely, but the perennial ryegrass is still there,” he says. He believes this is not a huge issue on a three-year red clover ley as the issue could be addressed as part of reseeding. If a farm was doing CTF on a fiveto six-year perennial ryegrass and red clover ley, some kind of mitigation work would be needed on these wheelings, such as sward lifting. Wheelings would

then need to be shifted across in the next season so improvement work was not compromised. Overall, Dr Hargreaves says focusing traffic in set areas helps minimise overall field damage. “You are reducing the structural damage to soils so you are potentially maintaining drainage and the quality of the soil. And you know where the damage is on the field so you can deal with it specifically,” he says.


minimum he thinks GPS is essential. This will increase accuracy. “Newer tractors being sold and equipment used by contractors often have GPS. This technology is becoming increasingly common place so it could be a case of just using the technology you’ve already got,” he says. Use marker posts If technology is not an option, consider using sight posts or positions in the field so machinery is driven in a particular route. All individual tractor drivers will need to pay care and attention. Pay attention during carting The distance between the forage harvester and silage trailers will increase with CTF – potentially to six metres. This means the team will have to work steadily. Also, consider using high-sided trailers and not filling trailers all the way to the top.



Think about tyre size

problem? n Reduces soil pore spaces – so earth worms can’t do their job. Oxygen needs to get into the soils and carbon dioxide needs to escape. This is compromised if soils are compacted n Reduces nitrogen utilisation – anaerobic soils will reduce the mineralisation of key nutrients such as nitrogen n Increases nitrous oxide

production (a greenhouse gas) – this gas is a product of denitrification, a biological process by which some nitrate in the soil is reduced to nitrous oxide. The rate of denitrification is increased in compacted soils, because of the lack of air as they’re denser and wetter for longer n Reduces nutrient availability – such as phosphate

JOpting for taller, narrower tyres could be a good way of reducing your working width, without compromising on compaction risk. James Duggleby, of Krone, says a few centimetres saving on working width can make all the difference when trying to manoeuvre machinery along narrow lanes and gateways. He says selecting a narrow tyre, that is also tall, helps limit com-

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paction problems as the larger circumference means there is more length in ground contact. For example: n An 800mm/70 R38 tyre has a footprint of 2.114m2 and a transport width of 3.3m n A 710/70 R42 tyre has a footprint of 2.208m2 and a transport width of 3.2m So, a 10cm saving in working width does little to impact on footprint and compaction risk.

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Case study Whether it is timings of slurry application, tyre size or how machinery travels on grassland, everything is designed to prevent soil compaction at Warnockland Farm, Ayrshire.

Reducing soil compaction with CTF principles

Controlled Traffic Farming at Warnockland Farm, Ayrshire.

yrshire farmer Andrew Welsh says: “I reckon if we just went all guns blazing, we could easily lose 15-20% of yield by not concentrating on reducing compaction.” That is a yield drop any farmer can ill-afford to lose. However, with grass silage the only forage fed to the 260-cow herd at Warnockland Farm, and all beef calves taken to stores, producing

Their silage-making set-up now includes a 600HP Krone Big X 600 self-propelled forager, Krone Swardrow 1000 and Krone triple mowers. Larger kit means they can work faster and cut and ensile in two days, which has improved silage consistency. However, the additional weight has added to soil compaction potential at silaging. Mr Welsh says this makes following the principles of Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF)


plenty of quality stocks is vital. Heavy clay subsoils, coupled with an annual rainfall of 55 inches, means soils can compact easily. As a result, the Welsh family have always worked to reduce compaction risk as best they can. Investing in their own kit has allowed them to make silage when grass is ready and deal better with ‘catchy’ weather. It has also enabled them to limit compaction at harvest by managing how machinery travels.

even more important, although they do not follow it to the letter. “You don’t have the forgiveness with the sheer weight of machinery. You’ve got to think a lot more about what you are doing. If you dive in, you can cause a lot of damage very quickly.” n All the steps taken by Mr Welsh help maximise yield and quality, which is why he’s been one of Yara’s nominees in the Grass YEN (Yield Enhancement Network) Competition for the last two years.

How to reduce compaction risk JTo reduce compaction risk throughout the season, the team: Avoid spreading slurry when ground is wet “We don’t mind waiting until April to spread slurry. We would rather have fewer tyre marks and less compaction than slurry on a field,” explains Mr Welsh. “We have seen it before where we haven’t had enough storage and spread slurry in the winter – you could see the wheeling through the growing season and there was a loss of yield on those tyre marks.” Opt for big tyres The forager has 800mm tyres on the front and 650mm


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tyres on the back, while all tractors run 600mm or wider and 900mm for applying slurry. That means all of the machines can go anywhere on the farm, without damaging soils. Start from the longest field edge first Whether it is fertiliser spreading, liming, mowing, rowing up or trailer traffic, machinery travel always starts on the longest, straightest edge of a field. The only one that does not follow this line is slurry which is applied by dribble bar. This area will then be ploughed at a 25 to 30-degree angle from that straight edge to address compaction.



Think about how silage trailers travel on grassland If silage trailers are loaded at the top of a field, they have to travel up and along the headland to get to the gate or straight back down the way they came to the headland and out. When they move round the headland and it is wet and sticky, they travel as close to the hedge as possible to keep compaction there. “This is a halfway house to CTF, most traffic moves in the same direction in the ups and downs of a field, but we don’t run machinery too many times on the same track,” adds Mr Welsh.


Swapped from smaller to larger equipment When the farm was running smaller machines, the mower, rake and forager were all running on the same tracks. By moving to triple mowers and a 40ft rake, the mower wheelings are on different tracks, therefore reducing compaction by a third. In addition, the extra width on these newer machines will reduce wheelings and the likelihood of compaction across the field by half. “If you can produce better, even quality grass, it can help produce more milk and save money on concentrate,” Mr Welsh says.

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Clover benefits Reduced fertiliser costs and more milk solids means including clover in the sward could bring a benefit worth £215 per hectare, according to Irish research.


razing perennial ryegrass and white clover swards creates the potential to not only improve milk solids production per cow, but also reduce fertiliser costs. A four-year trial carried out at Teagasc Moorpark in Ireland compared performance on perennial ryegrass-only leys receiving 250kg N/ha, with perennial ryegrass leys including clover. The clover leys received either 250kg N/ha or 150kg N/ha. Nitrogen was applied at the same rate and timings up until May on all treatments. It was after May that the fertiliser was reduced for the remainder of the year on the clover 150kg N/ha treatment. Results showed that herbage production remained the same (14.5t DM/ha) on clover leys receiving less N, while there was an increase in milk solids, leading to improved profit/ha (see panel). Improving nitrogen efficiency is central to Yara’s agronomic advice, which stems around producing more from less. Teagasc grassland research officer Michael Egan says these benefits will only be seen in swards where clover contents average 20-25% through the year. “If you have sufficient clover

Managing clover in grazing swards

Cows from Teagasc trial on clover swards.

in the sward, there is scope to reduce nitrogen application by up to 100kg N/ha in the later part of the season, June onwards,” he explains.

Critical To maintain clover at this level, good grassland management, particularly at the start of the season, is of critical importance (see panel). This is due to the fact grass will always grow faster compared to clover at the beginning of the year as clover has a higher minimum soil temperature requirement for growth compared to grass (8C vs 5C). Unless grass is grazed sufficiently at this

time, it will outcompete the clover, leading to clover reduction. “The key is to manage clover well early on [before May], otherwise you will not have the clover later,” says Dr Egan. “Chemical fertiliser is also an advantage for white clover at the start of the season when it is not fixing nitrogen itself, as it uses the chemical fertiliser for growth.”

Use the correct clover-safe spray post-establishment to avoid clover die-out Opt for a spring reseed sowing in autumn allows grass to grow up over winter and potentially outcompete the clover Sow clover at an adequate rate – 5kg/ha Graze the sward after sowing to allow light down into the sward Stick to the spring rotation planner and graze grass at covers of 2,900-3,000kg DM/ ha down to 1,500kg DM/ha Avoid taking heavy cuts of silage

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This means the usual rates of nitrogen should be applied up until May and then dropped back once clover is growing and fixing atmospheric nitrogen.

Reduced fertiliser rates on clover swards - the benefits Maintained herbage production: The clover leys receiving 150kgN/ha produced the same amount of herbage versus perennial ryegrass leys getting 250kg N/ha (14.5t DM/ha/year) +4% increase in clover: On the leys getting the lower rate of fertiliser versus those getting the higher rate (27% vs 23%) +33kg milk solids/cow/year: Cows grazed on clover swards produced more milk solids compared to those grazed on perennial ryegrass-only leys

n Medium leaf white clover sown at 5kg/ha (2kg/acre) n 50:50 late heading, diploid and tetraploid perennial ryegrass mix n Cows stocked at 2.7 cows/hectare

+€252/ha/year (£215): The benefit of having clover swards with 150kg N/ha applied versus perennial ryegrass-only with 250kg N/ha applied - as a result of increased milk solids and reduced fertiliser +19% improvement in nitrogen efficiency: The nitrogen efficiency on clover leys receiving 150kg N/ha was 59% versus 40% on perennial ryegrass-only leys receiving 250kg N/ha

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The trial n Perennial ryegrass-only swards receiving 250kg N/ha, or n Perennial ryegrass and white clover leys receiving 250kgN/ha, or n Perennial ryegrass and white clover receiving 150kgN/ha

How to maintain sward clover levels

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Weed control With some key clover-safe sprays set to disappear from the market this year, a new herbicide mix could provide farmers with an effective solution for controlling weeds in clover swards.

Controlling weeds in clover swards


new herbicide tank mix which can safely control docks in clover rich swards and help boost grassland productivity is being launched by Nufarm. The new mix comprises of Agritox (MCPA) at 1.5 litres/ hectare and Squire Ultra (amidosulfuron) at 40g/ha and has been created for application on established grassland. The mix has been designed as an

alternative to the clover safe spray, CloverMaster (2,4-DB), which will cease to be available from autumn 2020. This is usually applied with Squire Ultra. Field trials carried out by Nufarm found that application of the new herbicide tank mix resulted in 95% control of a dock infestation which covered 20% of a field. In addition, 80% control of chickweed was achieved. The mix was applied to a four-year-old perennial ryegrass

This dock is too small and not yet at the optimum, leafy rosette stage for spraying.

and white clover grazing ley at the end of August last year. Brent Gibbon, agronomy manager for Nufarm assessed the field a month later. He says: “We saw a 95% control of docks and a slight reduction in clover, which is to be expected because the Agritox label does state that clover may be checked, but it recovers by the following spring. It is not 100% clover safe, but

the clover that remained was healthy and growing,” he says. In fact the clover was found to recover to normal, six weeks after application in a separate, small plot trial carried out in Scotland.

Productivity Mr Gibbon says farmers can be confident long-term clover production will be safeguarded, something which is vital con-

Top tips on weed control Tips for getting effective weed control in established leys. Docks need to be at is needed to give good covthe leafy, rosette stage erage of the weed leaf. Low (in spring or autumn) drift, air inclusion nozzles are Weeds need to be also recommended actively growing so the Apply herbicide a herbicide can be taken up minimum of three by the plant. In very dry weeks before cutting. On conditions, hold off spraying multi-cut systems where it until the plant starts to grow may be difficult to leave this again window, an autumn appliA minimum water cation may be preferable volume of 200 litres/ha (see pages 14-15)

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A new tank mix delivered a 95% control of docks with just a slight reduction in clover, explains Nufarm’s Brent Gibbon.

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The potential ROI from controlling grassland weeds


This dock is at the optimum leafy, rosette stage for spraying.

sidering clover’s ability to fix up to 150kg N/ha/year. At the same time, getting broadleaf weeds in check will help raise grassland productivity. In fact, boosting production by just 1t DM/ha, can bring significant reward (see panel and table). The new mix is also lower

cost than the usual Clover Master and Squire Ultra mix applied at 3.3 litres/ha. However, in order to achieve the maximum level of return on investment from herbicide application, Mr Gibbon stresses the importance of spraying weeds at the right stage (see tips box).

The new mix can be applied to established grassland over one-year-old and is advised from April to September, through a conventional boom sprayer. Only a seven-day grazing interval after application is required. Where grass is to be cut for silage or

hay, a three- to four-week interval is needed. For new leys, Mr Gibbon advises using a clover safe mix of 2.5 litres of CloverMaster/ha plus 30g of Squire Ultra/ha. Clover needs to have at least one trifoliate leaf before application.

Return on investment JInvesting in weed control makes financial sense considering the potential to improve dry matter production per hectare. Controlling a moderate 10% dock infestation can lead to a 1t DM/ha yield improvement from a typical 10tDM/ha sward. This results in increased grazing availability and stocking rates which adds up to a 8:1 return on investment (see below).

Weed control ROI - return gained from producing an extra 1t DM/ha System DM value Farmer utilisation (%) Grazing-based dairy farmer 1t DM @12ME 80 increasing stocking rate: = 12,000MJ ME improving yield by 10%, from 10t DM/ha to 11t DM/ha

Additional production potential 1,778 litres/ha @ 27ppl = £480

Concentrate replacement value




Silage-based dairy farmer increasing stocking rate: improving yield by 10%, from 10t DM/ha to 11t DM/ha

1,361 litres/ha @ 27ppl = £367



0.83t of a 13MJ ME concentrate @ £250/t = £208


1t DM @ 10.5 ME 70 = 10,500MJ ME

Grazing-based dairy farmer 1t DM @12ME 80 - replacing concentrate feed: = 12,000MJ ME improving yield by 10%, from 10t DM/ha to 11t DM/ha

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Case study

Creating a more sustainable system Growing lucerne to reduce reliance on bought-in protein is part of one Leicestershire farm’s strategy to create a more sustainable farming system.


educing costs by producing more home home-grown feed and hitting good yields with strong milk constituents has been the driving force for Ben Stroud since he returned to the home farm six years ago. Since then, he has focused on improving forage quality, growing lucerne as a home-grown protein source and making better use of mucks and slurries. The move to lucerne has delivered a £1,420 per month saving in feed costs thanks to reduced soya inclusion. At the same time, targeted use of slurries to deliver phosphate (P) and potash (K) to the fields which need it – based on soil analysis – has saved £10,000 a year in bought-in fertiliser costs. This should help reduce the farm’s

Farm facts n 190-cow herd yielding 9,594 litres at 4.34% fat and 3.48% protein n All-year-round calving n Milk produced for Long Clawson Dairy for Stilton cheese n 225 hectares (550 acres) n Forage crops: 81ha (200 acres) of grassland, 20ha (36 acres) lucerne and 22.5ha (50 acres) forage maize n Arable rotation: wheat, winter barley, spring barley and oilseed rape

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environmental footprint and increase business resilience. Mr Stroud says it ultimately comes down to margin, and by lowering costs and pushing performance, that is what he is delivering. He says: “I am keen to reduce our reliance on bought-in feed. There are two areas of attention for that – producing quality grass silage and growing our own protein. That is where lucerne comes in.”

Resilient Mr Stroud believes lucerne benefits both the dairy and arable sides of the business. It helps lengthen the arable rotation and aids blackgrass control, while providing a high protein feed for the cattle. Lucerne is typically recommended for growing on light soils, however, the Strouds grow the crop on heavy clay ground and have found it to be a resilient crop. The lucerne is usually cut four times a year and round baled, with analysis typically coming back at 22-24% crude protein, 35-40% DM and about 10ME. Mr Stroud believes the key to quality is cutting early – around mid-May – when the crop is leafy and not too mature. He also shies away from general thinking which advises leaving the lucerne to flower at least once a year. He thinks it is this strategy which helps the crop exceed expected protein levels of about 17-19%. Lucerne’s high protein levels enabled soya to be completely

Ben Stroud

cut-out of the ration at two points last summer. Mr Stroud says: “Protein is one of the biggest costs in the ration. I think we are going to see more pressure on feeding protein. Carbon seems to be increasingly talked about and we’ve got to try and be more sustainable where possible and maximising homegrown forage is a key part of that.” Overall, the herd receives much less soya than it did before lucerne was introduced. The winter diet (fresh weight) consists of 20kg of first cut grass, 20kg of maize silage, 10kg of lucerne silage, 3kg of home-grown and rolled barley and 1.5kg soya meal. Cows also get up to 9kg of a 17% protein cake through the parlour. The lucerne has also brought the added benefit of allowing straw, which is of low nutritional value, to be taken out of the diet.

“We’re getting more quality forage into the cows and more milk from forage. If you’re feeding 1kg of straw, that’s probably 2-3kg less silage they’re eating,” he says. The scratch factor from lucerne helps milk fat levels, while also aiding rumen buffering capacity. “It makes the cows a lot more stable. We’re been able to feed higher levels of starch at certain times of the year,” he says.

Financial benefits Mr Stroud also believes introducing forage maize into the diet for the first time this winter has aided milk constituents. He says: “I want to make lucerne and maize the base of our ration all year round and push our grass quality even higher and see where we can get to.”. This should help deliver his ultimate aim of achieving a good

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tem by maximising milk from forage Tips for ensiling lucerne JNaturally low sugars and high buffering capacity means a silage additive is a must when conserving lucerne, says Volac’s silage scientist, Philip Jones. The high protein level in the crop results in buffering, which means high levels of lactic acid need to be produced to drive down the pH as part of fermentation, he says. At the same time, low sugar levels mean lactic acidproducing bugs have less ‘fuel’ to work with. This means there is a higher chance of secondary fermentation and butyric silage.

balance between litres and solids. In November, Mr Stroud crunched some numbers to see how the business was performing that month, compared to the previous November – this fits with his ‘measure to manage’ approach. He kept milk and feed prices the same. His calculations showed he was £3,500 a month better off thanks to better production and reduced feed cost savings. He

thinks including maize in the diet for the first time and continuing to include lucerne, has been the main reason. “The herd is performing really well and consistently through the year and we are sure it’s down to lucerne. It’s a big part of the puzzle,” says Mr Stroud, who also thinks regular reseeding and producing better quality grass silage has helped the overall picture.

With this in mind, he advises: ■ Striving for high dry matters (DM) to concentrate the sugars in the crop - aim for about 30-40% DM in clamped lucerne and 35-45% DM in baled lucerne ■ Use a homofermentative silage additive such as Lactobacillus plantarum to produce a quick, efficient fermentation, eg. Ecosyl ■ When aerobic stability is a problem, use an additive with an additional heterofermentative strain such as Lactobacillus buchneri, eg. EcoCool

Mr Stroud wants to make lucerne and maize the base of the ration all year round.

How lucerne is grown at The Grange ■ Crop established end August-early September after wheat ■ A set of discs is used to make a shallow, fine seed bed, which is essential for good establishment ■ Lucerne is broadcast seeded onto the surface

■ Ground is rolled pre-drilling and twice afterwards ■ Slurry is mixed with dirty water and applied after first and second cut at 15t/acre – lucerne loves slurry ■ The new ley is sprayed two to three times in the autumn to get on top of weeds and

volunteers - getting on top of weeds early is a priority to ensure lucerne establishes well ■ No spring fertiliser applied ■ A minimum cutting height of four inches is maintained. Cutting too low stops the crop from recovering quickly after mowing

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■ The team avoids travelling on the crop when soils are wet as it does not like compaction/wheelings ■ The lucerne lasts over four years and is typically followed by winter wheat ■ Crop typically yields 17t/ acre per year over four cuts

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They don’t understand the science but they do know fine forage when they’re fed it

Containing MTD/1, the world’s most proven Lactobacillus strain, Ecosyl ensures more consistently reliable silage, whatever the weather.






For further information: Freephone | 0800 919808 Email | Visit |

For consistently better silage Copyright © 2020 Volac International Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Reducing emissions Thinking about what fertilisers are used and how they are applied could help farmers get ahead of the curve and reduce ammonia emissions before regulations are introduced.

Tackling ammonia emissions


he Government’s Draft Clean Air Strategy suggests it is highly likely dairy farmers will face regulations around ammonia emissions in the near future. The reasons are numerous. As an industry, agriculture accounts for 88% of all UK emissions, with dairy farming the worst offender (see panel). When released, ammonia reacts with transport and industrial emissions to form particulate matter which has a negative impact on human health. When deposited on land, ammonia can acidify soils, natural habitat and freshwater and overload land and water with nitrogen. The Government has committed to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by 8% by 2020 and 16% by 2030. At present, we are off target. That is one of the reasons for the Draft Clean Air Strategy.

Yara’s Philip Cosgrave says it makes sense for farmers to get ahead and start thinking about how they can reduce emissions. By doing so it will reduce the likelihood of regulation. There are numerous ways to reduce ammonia emissions, including covering slurry stores. However, Mr Cosgrave believes a ‘quick win’ can be found by thinking more about fertiliser. “Lowering ammonia emissions on dairy farms won’t be straightforward, but minimising emissions from fertiliser comes down to a simple fertiliser purchasing choice by the farmer,” he says. Mr Cosgrave says farmers should think about moving away from urea fertilisers, because of their high ammonia emissions, and opt for ammonium nitratebased fertilisers instead. Low trajectory spreading techniques are also beneficial (see panel).

About 45% of nitrogen in urea is lost as ammonia on average, so consider opting for a product like ammonium nitrate instead.

Cause of ammonia emissions

28% 23% 25%

Dairy cattle account for 28% of UK agricultural ammonia emissions Fertiliser application accounts for 23% of UK agricultural ammonia emissions (all sectors) Manure application accounts for 25% of agricultural ammonia emissions Source: Draft Clean Air Strategy. Figures from 2016




THINK ABOUT FERTILISER APPLICATION Up to 45% of nitrogen in urea is lost as ammonia on average (Code of Agricultural Best Practice)

2% 2% of nitrogen in ammonium nitrate is lost as ammonia



5ml of rain is needed within 24 hours of spreading urea to minimise ammonia losses

Use Urea with an inhibitor - using a urea with an inhibitor reduces ammonia losses by 76% versus urea alone (NT26 Project)

Avoid applying urea on light, sandy soils or during the dry period

Follow a nutrient management plan - Whatever product used, apply it on the back of a nutrient management plan so it is applied at the right rate at the right time Avoid heavy rain – do not apply ammonium nitrate when there is heavy rain forecast as nitrates can be lost into water Grass must be growing - whatever fertiliser is used to ensure uptake




Low trajectory spreading - Use trailing shoe or injectors when applying manures to limit ammonia losses Apply in the spring - cooler temperatures will reduce nitrogen losses as ammonia from evaporation

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Herbicide applications

Spray weeds in autumn for best co It is time to rethink herbicide timings and prioritise an autumn application when weed control could be more effective than in spring.


armers could make big gains in grassland performance by carrying out much of their weed control in the autumn, instead of the spring, says Nufarm’s Brent Gibbon. A survey conducted by Nufarm of 200 livestock farmers carried out in 2019 found that

half of farmers were not aware of the benefits of an autumn application, while only a third considered controlling weeds in late summer. Mr Gibbon believes this highlights huge scope for producers to improve their weed control strategy. “Most farmers think about weed control in the spring, but it’s not necessarily the right time

Autumn application is also ideal because:


Timing is perfect Perennial weeds are at the ideal, leafy rosette stage following second or third cut. This is the optimum time for herbicide uptake. Weeds are not trying to put up a seed head In the autumn, weeds are not trying to put up a seed head, so the sap is going down into the root, rather than up into the seed head. As a result, you’ve got good downward translocation of the herbicide, which should provide good control. Cutting intervals are not a concern There are likely to be no concerns about cutting interval in the autumn and, if necessary, there’s likely to be more alternative grazing available at this time. The fact you have controlled weeds in the autumn also means you do not have to worry about it in the spring



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and you can get on and graze immediately. Its suits multi-cut systems On systems aiming to take an early first cut of silage, or adopting rotational grazing or multi-cut systems, late summer could be the first opportunity for weed control. Most products can be used up until the end of September. Squire Ultra can be applied until October 15. Weed competition is less The chances of weed competition in early spring will be minimised. As a result, potential grazing dry matter will be maximised. This will help deliver cost savings in supplementary feed the following spring. n For the best level of dock and chickweed control in both autumn and spring, Mr Gibbon recommends an application of Thrust (2,4-D plus dicamba) on established grassland.



of year,” he says. “In the spring, soils can be cold so you haven’t got much active growth. That’s particularly the case in April when a lot of herbicide is applied. Soils can be cold or even frosty, so weeds are not growing and actively taking up product.” He thinks this could be the reason why some farmers do not see the results they expect after a spring application. In comparison, soils are warmer in the autumn, meaning plants are actively growing, which aids uptake of herbicide and translocation down to the roots.

Case study: James Muir, New Buildings Farm, Hopt JJames Muir views autumn spraying as an essential component of his overall weed control strategy, which spans the whole growing season. It is a job he and his team take extremely seriously in light of their grass-focused, spring block calving system. “I think of weed control constantly from April – it is an ongoing battle,” says Mr Muir. “Grass is 100% of our business. The enemy is weeds.” The Mule always has a ready made-up backpack sprayer in the back, together with a shovel. Every time cows are moved out of a paddock, docks and nettles are sprayed under the fence lines and along the hedge. The shovel is brought out to tackle any big, problem weeds.

When there is a surplus of grass, any fields with weed problems will be taken out for spraying and then cut or grazed following the withdrawal period. Most of the weed control takes place in April-June, but Mr Muir is also keen to spray in the autumn, when herbicide uptake is good.

Opportunity “We’ve always done late August spraying. In August, weeds are still growing. If there’s opportunity to do it we’ll spend the money as docks reduce your grassland area and feed quality for your cows,” he explains. An autumn application is also more convenient as the team is less busy than during the main silage making season.

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st control James Muir is an advocate of autumn spraying.

PROTECT YOUR WATER HERBICIDE STEWARDSHIP Applying herbicides safely, while avoiding potential water contamination is essential to safeguard the environment and their continued availability. Here is recap on herbicide stewardship best practice

arm, Hopton, Stafford This autumn, a contractor was brought in to spray 30 hectares (74 acres) of the farm in late August. This was largely to control broadleaf docks. A greater area than usual was sprayed in 2019 as a hangover from 2018 when the drought prevented effective weed control.

Farm facts n 226 hectares (558 acres), including 166ha (410 acres) in grazing platform n 440 cows n 12-week spring calving block n 6,350 litres a cow/year n 553kg milk solids/cow n Supply Arla

Use Plant Protection Products safely

Ensure only certified spray operators and equipment apply the products - PA2 for boom spraying and PA6 for knapsack spraying

Ensure the sprayer has received its ‘sprayer MOT’ (within the NSTS, a boom sprayer of more than three metres should be tested every three years)

Adhere to a five-metre spray width from any watercourse

Use the right products - only used approved grassland products

Clean and wash down your sprayer at the end of the day, well away from water bodies or open drains

Don’t fill or wash down sprayers in yard unless measures to collect washings for safe disposal are in place

Don’t use on waterlogged fields. If tyre marks are visible, the field is too wet

Don’t exceed the maximum application rate

Don’t use if rain is expected. Apply on a calm day when weather conditions are good

Consider low drift nozzles as their design helps limit spray drift

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11/02/2020 09:47

New leys Taking the time to knock out seedling weeds in a new grass reseed will substantially reduce the likelihood of them returning at a later date and safeguard investment.

How to get the best from a new ley 2

Reseeding provides the ideal opportunity to get on top of weeds before they establish in a sward.

a straight glyphosate spray. If the sward is just grass, use a high quality, advanced salt technology glyphosate such as Rattler (540g/litre). A low quality glyphosate does not have good surfactant levels so do not stick to the foliage as well. Check the label for reseed interval: The time between


Effect of herbicide applied to just right timing or too late to docks 12 Untreated


Just right Too late

8 6 4

Applying herbicide to seedling docks ‘just right’ helps reduce the level of docks in the sward in the long-term. Waiting to spray when docks are mature or ‘too late’ causes docks to come back in higher numbers, sooner.

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Autumn 2014

Spring 2014

Autumn 2013

Spring 2013


Autumn 2012

2 Spring 2012


grasses which need destruction or perennial weeds as well. What are the species present and population levels? This will determine product choice. Choose the right product for sward destruction: If you have grass and perennial weeds in the sward, apply Kyleo (glyphosate + 2,4-D) at 5 litres/ha. Unlike straight glyphosate, the mix completely destroys the old sward and also controls weeds such as nettles, thistles, and docks, as well as clovers and volunteer brassicas, which frequently survive

Docks per m2


erbicide application shortly after reseeding is the Achilles heel for perennial weeds. This timing provides the ideal opportunity to get on top of seedling weeds before they grow and establish in a sward. According to recent Teagasc trial work, applying a herbicide to small docks, shortly after reseeding will reduce dock levels for the following five years (see graph). Nufarm’s Brent Gibbon explains: “Applying the herbicide at this stage of the dock’s development, facilitates almost complete elimination. “The trials have also shown docks which emerge in the following years rarely establish due to competition from the grass.” With a grass reseed costing about £450-£500/hectare it makes sense to safeguard this investment by ensuring any new ley gets off to the best start possible. With this in mind, Mr Gibbon shares his five-step weed control programme for a new reseed. Assess the weed burden pre-ploughing: The old ley should always be completely burnt off prior to a reseed. The key is to identify if it is just

Kyleo application and drilling will range from seven days if ploughed, to 28 days if direct drilled. For grass and clover mixes, following ploughing you can go in 14 days after Kyleo application. Apply herbicide at the correct time after reseeding: Once the grass is sown and reaches the four-leaf stage, consider a herbicide. Think phenoxy-based herbicides. For example, PastureMaster (2,4-D + MCPA) 2.5 litres/ ha and fluroxypyr 0.75 litres/ ha, to deal with seedling docks, thistles, nettles, chickweed, Fat Hen together with other annuals. Apply from April onwards. Make sure clover is at the right stage before spraying: If clover is in the new reseed, wait for it to be at the one trifoliate leaf onwards before applying Clovermaster 2.5 litres/ha, plus Squire Ultra 30g/ha. n Always read the product label and seek advice from a BASIS qualified agronomist.



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ULV silage additives ULV reduces the amount of water needed to be carried to the field to top up silage additive tanks at harvest - therefore freeing up time.

Ultra Low Volume application - for example where silage additive is applied at 20ml/tonne of grass compared to the usual 1-2 litres/tonne - could save considerable time at harvest.


ltra Low Volume (ULV) silage additive application could decrease the hassle factor associated with lugging copious amounts of water to the field and reduce tractor down-time at silage-making. All too often, keeping the forager topped up with silage additive can be a full-time job on traditional systems where additive is applied at 1-2 litres per tonne. It can mean lugging IBCs of water to the field or bringing the forager back to the farm to top it up at the hose. ULV application allows the dilution rate to be reduced considerably – so for example additive is applied at 20ml/t. The same amount of additive or ‘silage bugs’ are applied so the product cost stays the same. All that changes is the volume of water added, explains Volac’s Peter Smith.

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Ultra Low Volume saves time at silage-making “All we need to do is get the bugs on to the grass. The amount of water is irrelevant. It’s merely a carrier for the product,” he says. Forage harvester Not all additives can be used at ULV (see key considerations box), but most large manufacturers will have a product which can be applied this way. The forage harvester will also have to be set up for ULV using a specialist applicator, which can be retrofitted to most machines. The ULV applicator allows the additive to be atomized, a bit like car paint spray, using the

high wind speed in the chute of the forager. In comparison, the traditional method uses droplet application.

With ULV, 20 litres of mixed Ecosyl will treat the same amount as 1,000 litres applied using the traditional method. Mr Smith

Key considerations when using ULV


Not all additives can be applied using ULV Only use additives that say they can be used for ULV on the label. Additives for ULV application need to be buffered correctly so they do not kill themselves once mixed. They also need to be held in suspension once mixed


You need the right equipment The forager requires a specific ULV applicator The forager needs to be the correct size ULV will only work through large forage harvesters as a high wind speed is needed up through the chute to atomise the additive


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20 1-2 With ULV, 20 litres of mixed Ecosyl will treat the same amount as 1,000 litres applied using the traditional method, says Peter Smith.

says that ultimately ULV reduces the amount of time silage trailer tractor drivers have to wait for tanks to be topped up. With drivers PETER typically being paid by the hour, this down-time soon adds up. It also means more acres can be harvested in a day, which can be a god-send in ‘catchy’ weather. “With traditional application, if you are applying at one-litre a tonne in a 400-litre tank, they will need to stop [on a 7t crop] every 57 acres or every 28 acres with a 200-litre tank,” says Mr Smith. Some contractors have told Mr Smith that less time needed to fill tanks is worth about 4-6 hectares (10-15 acres) a day, which is hugely valuable when they are getting paid by the acre. For farmers, it frees up time to

do other jobs during silage-making. The fact the silage additive job is easier in the field also means they can have increased confiSMITH dence it is getting done right. “If you can remove the hassle out of any process, it is more likely to be done correctly,” Mr Smith adds. The effectiveness of application is also consistent between methods. Ten trials carried out in the UK and Germany looked at the different application methods using Ecosyl. It was applied at 20ml/tonne or 1.5 litres a tonne. “The evenness of spread of bugs through the crops was if anything slightly better using Ultra Low Volume,” says Mr Smith.

If you can remove the hassle out of any process, it is more likely to be done correctly

ml per tonne

litres per tonne

The typical amount of additive applied using ULV

The traditional rate at which additive is applied


Some contractors reckon ULV allows them to harvest an extra

litres of ULV applied Ecosyl will treat the same amount as


litres applied in the traditional method


(10-15 ) acres/day

How foragers can be adapted to be ULV n ULV kits can only be used on forage harvesters, not balers or forage wagons n ULV kits can be retrofitted to most self-propelled foragers or bought already in-built into new machinery n Volac’s Ecosyler ULV system can be retro fitted to any self-propelled forage harvester. It has a RRP of £995

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4-6 n All wide bodied Krone foragers are available with a ULV option. This can be in-built in new models at a cost of around £1,755 n Krone ULV systems can be linked to a crop control system which measures grass silage yields so additive can be applied at a certain volume per tonne

19 14/02/2020 12:15

Case study

Farm manager Scott McGill.

Cutting grass at the optimum stage and applying a silage additive are just some of the reasons one all-year-round housed herd is producing nearly 50% milk from forage.

Additive safeguards silage quality


arm manager, Scott McGill is adamant quality forage should form the backbone to any dairy farm, regardless of system or whether cows are grazed or housed. It is this attitude which means nearly half of the milk produced by the 450-cow, all-year-round

housed Jersey herd at Kerricks Farm, Dumfries, comes from forage. For Mr McGill, who has a background in block calving, grass-based systems, it all comes back to profitability. “Producing quality forage has been drilled into me so it’s something I focus on a lot. The same principles should apply

Farm facts - Kerricks Farm n One of three dairy farms run by the Cowhill Estate, Dumfries n Farm purchased in 2017 and herd set up by buyingin Jerseys from Denmark and UK n 218 hectares (540 acres) owned and 46.5ha (115 acres) rented n 450 Jerseys, housed

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all year round n Two-thirds of the herd calves in a 10-week autumn block and the rest in a 10-week spring block n 7,759 litres/cow/year at 6.3% fat and 4.4% protein n 3,800 litres milk from forage n 1.3t of concentrate fed per cow per year

whether cows are grazed or housed. It’s all about driving efficiencies,” he says. “If we can grow a decent, high energy, high protein feed, why not do it?” Two-thirds of the forage component of the ration comes from grass silage, with the rest from maize. Cows also receive a home-mixed blend of Hipro Soya, sugar beet pulp and distillers, plus concentrate through the parlour. With grass silage so important to the diet, the focus is on producing quality, rather than bulky silage, across three cuts (see Top Tips box). Ecosyl additive is used as standard across all cuts to help safeguard silage quality. At £1.28/t, Mr McGill thinks it is a no brainer to use a quality additive. “I don’t really see why you wouldn’t,” he says. “If it is going

to help keep silage cool and help ferment it quicker and keep more nutrients, which the cow can use, then why wouldn’t you?”

Tedding Tedding is a strategy which Mr McGill introduced last year to help achieve a more consistent wilt. After seeing the potential benefits, he is now committed to using it moving forward. The decision to ted grass silage came about after experiencing issues with first cut clamp slippage in 2018. That year’s wet, lush first cut simply was not staying in the clamp. Consequently, Mr McGill sort the advice of Volac’s Alan Smith to determine how best to prevent the issue in the future. Mr Smith suggested that the crop had not been wilted consistently as silage had not been spread out.

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Jersey cows feeding at Kerricks Farm. Two-thirds of the forage component of the ration comes from grass silage (inset), with the rest from maize.

This meant the top of the cut crop had dried, while the material underneath had not. In 2019, all of the silage was tedded out and wilted for around 12 hours. This achieved a more consistent wilt. However, hot weather meant the first cut dried out too much to 41% dry matter and 18.9% crude protein and 79% D-value. With 142 hectares (350 acres) of silage cut SCOTT in 1-1.5 days and some ground four miles away from the farm, ensuring each field achieves optimum wilt is a challenge. The fact some fields are sandy loam and prone to drying out, while others are heavy clay, also means different fields dry out at different rates. With this in mind, this season, only the heavier fields will be tedded out at an additional cost of about £4/acre. “We need to adapt it to differ-

ent fields and weather conditions,” explains Mr McGill.

Second cut Very hot weather also meant that last year’s second cut was very dry at 47% dry matter. With such dry crops prone to heating up in the clamp, the team decided to apply Ecocool – an additive, which has been specifically designed to prevent heating in dry McGILL silage. Second cut is yet to be fed, although there appears to be no indication of mould. As well as applying the correct additive, Mr McGill also believes cut timing and the type of grass grown is key to success. “Our first cut is typically 11ME. That comes back to having young grass. If you want energy, you need young grass and to cut the grass when it needs to be cut,” he says.

If we can grow a decent, high energy, high protein feed, why not do it?

Tips for producing and utilising quality grass silage JScott McGill provides his top tips for making the best possible silage: Reseed regularly Cutting new, young grass definitely helps with quality. As the farm is new and we don’t know the reseeding history, we have a reseeding policy of two years of wheat, followed by a five-year perennial ryegrass ley without clover Don’t worry about bulk Cut at the three leaf stage when grass is ready to be cut, rather than working to a date Consolidate it well If you think it’s rolled enough – it’s not. Our contractor has traditionally used a telehandler and two buck rakes on the clamp. This year they used a loading shovel. At 17 tonnes in weight this has made a major difference to


2 3

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consolidation and helped avoid clamp heating Pay attention at sheeting up We use thick gauge side sheets up and over the top and two black sheets, followed by a green net. Then we have touching tyres on top – you cannot see any green net Push the ration up We push up the ratio every two hours on average. It takes five minutes, so why not do it? This helps keep intakes up Maximise palatability We clean out any old silage from the feed face every morning. We never put new silage on top of old. That increases palatability and intakes. It is about quality silage which smells good and cleaning it up. That’s key to driving intakes


5 6

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Knowledge grows

Booster Fertilizers Make every bite count Enriched with: • selenium for healthier livestock • sulphur for increased yields


TK_03_P22.indd 1



Yara UK



11/02/2020 08:05

Multi-cut grass silage Applying a silage additive to multi-cut grass silage can help create a more stable fermentation and cut dry matter losses in the clamp by half, according to recent trial work.

Additive is a must on multi-cut


mproved quality and digestibility are the main reasons more farmers are adopting multi-cut silage systems, but such benefits can also create challenges at ensiling, making a silage additive a must. Multi-cut stems around cutting grass more frequently at around four-week intervals. This means grass is younger, more digestible and higher in metabolisable energy (ME) and protein. As a result, cows can eat more of it, boosting forage intakes and thus MARK milk from forage. However, Volac silage microbiologist, Mark Leggett, says this can also create issues in the clamp. “The shorter cutting window can result in higher residual nitrogen levels from fertiliser which, when combined with the potentially higher protein levels, can increase buffering capacity of the crop,” he explains. Consequently, pH does not drop as fast. This increases the likelihood that bad bacteria will start to grow and take over the process, leading to dry matter and quality losses. Dr Leggett carried out an on-

farm trial looking at fresh grass quality on a multi-cut system and fermentation and silage quality when a silage additive was and was not applied (see trial box). Analysis of fresh, standing grass on the multi-cut system showed this younger grass was naturally low in lactic acid bacteria – compounding the issue at ensiling as there was less bacteria present to drop pH. There was also evidence of enterobacteria (commonly associated with LEGGETT slurry), despite the use of trailing shoe application. Treating this multi-cut silage with Ecosyl silage additive resulted in several benefits: A faster drop in pH The beneficial bacteria in Ecosyl were able to generate more lactic acid than the untreated crop, resulting in a rapid decline in pH. The pH in untreated silage fell much slower and never reached the level seen in the treated crop. Less undesirable bacteria and VFAs Ecosyl treated silage controlled

Treating with Ecosyl halved dry matter losses



Volac’s silage microbiologist Mark Leggett.

the growth of enterobacteria and restricted the production of volatile fatty acids (VFA), including butyric acid. In the untreated silage, where pH remained high for at least seven days, enerobacteria counts were higher, as were butyric acid levels. Less dry matter losses Dry matter losses in the treated crops were minimal at 3-7% across the four cuts. This compared to 5-14% in the untreated crops. This was due to better control of undesirable bacteria as a result of better fermentation in the treated silage.


The trial n Four-year-old perennial ryegrass leys n Received 45 units of N/acre and 3,000 gallons of slurry/acre six weeks before first cut n 35 units of N/acre and 1,500 gallons slurry/acre applied after each cut n Slurry applied with

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Dr Leggett says it is difficult to say if the trends seen are an inherent multi-cut issue. However, he says all of the four cuts in this trial were consistently difficult to ensile. “The starkest result is the dry matter loss. On average, treating with Ecosyl halved DM losses. That’s a lot to throw away for the sake of using an additive,” says Dr Leggett. “If you’ve done all the hard work in producing a high-quality crop on a multi-cut system – to just allow it to spoil in the clamp is a tremendous waste,” he says.

trailing shoe n Cuts taken every four weeks during May-August. Four cuts analysed in trial n Grass was either untreated or received Ecosyl (Lactobacillus plantarum MTD/1 at one million cfu/g forage)

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Tedding and raking

Tedding and raking are backbone to Tedding and raking are the unsung heroes of silaging and should be given as much care and attention at harvest as any part of the silage-making process.


aking the time to select the right tedders and rakes for your farm and setting them up correctly will pay dividends in the silage clamp. James Duggleby, of Krone, believes tedding and raking are the ‘unsung heroes’ of silage-making, and, when done well, promote an effective wilt and aid silaging efficiencies. However, all too often they are seen as the jobs which need to be done quickly to avoid slowing up harvest or are given to the least experienced person on-farm. Such an approach can lead to soil contamination and

dry matter losses in the clamp or inconsistent wilting and reduced silage quality. Mr Duggleby believes tedding in particular should be placed further up the list of priorities.

Integral “The tedder was historically seen as something used when it rained to dry out the grass, rather than an integral part of silage-making,” he says. “Instead, it should be seen as part of the process of achieving a consistent wilt. If there’s big variation in moisture content, it’s not good for silage quality.” Mr Duggleby advises thinking about the following: TEDDING n View tedding as key part of silaging. Tedding is the best way to create an even wilt. n 3-5 miles/hour Do not go too fast. Increasing the forward speed of the tedder is not the answer for covering ground quicker. Instead, opt for a wider machine. n Match rotor diameter with the job you are doing Small rotor diameters of around 1.32m are more suited to hay-making as they provide a finer mix and a more uniform wilt. A larger diameter of about 1.82m can be used for silage-making – this will reduce machinery costs. If you are

Ensure that the tines do not scrape along the soil.

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ne to silage success

How to set up a rake JTaking 10 minutes out of the day to set up the rake correctly can be time well spent at silage-making, says Volac’s Peter Smith. He says: “It is crucial that the height of the tines are adjusted so they do not dig into the ground and cause soil contamination of the crop. If soil is brought into the clamp, it can lead to butyric fermentation, reduced palatability and up to 50% dry matter losses.” Mr Smith advises: n Set up the rake on concrete hard standing first – the tines should not be

touching the ground n Readjust as soon as you enter a field as the height of the tines will depend on the grass cutting height used n It’s better to leave a little grass in the field than have the tines too low and risk bringing soil into the clamp n Ensure tyre pressures are correct and even across all four tyres – if they are too soft, the rake will bounce, causing it to dig into the ground n Watch the operation in the field and ensure it is done correctly

Set up the rake on concrete hard standing first.

Tedding is an essential step for achieving a consistent wilt.

silage and hay making, opt for a medium diameter. n Think about the wilt you need Do not match the tedder size with the size of your mower. Instead work out what acreage you need to ted and what speed do you need to cover ground to achieve the desired wilt. The size of the tedder should be matched to this. For several hundred acres, go for a 13, 16 or 20m tedder. If you only have 100 acres, go for a 5.5 or 7.8m machine. n Think about headland spreading Selecting a tedder with a headland boundary system will limit how far the crop is thrown and

prevent valuable forage from being lost in the hedge. RAKING n Think about swath size Rather than matching the rake with mower, ask what size swath you want and the amount you are going to be raking and then choose accordingly. n What is the productivity of the harvest machine? Match the rake size with the productivity of the harvest machine. This will reduce the likelihood of the forager catching up with the rake and putting pressure on the rake operator to drive faster.

A baler or forage wagon will have a lower productivity than a forage harvester, so a single-rotor rake or small twin-rotor rake will be suitable. Aim for a large, twin-rotor rake of 8-9m or a four-rotor rake when working with a forage harvester. n Take time to adjust height Adjust the height of the tines as necessary in each field to reflect crop yields. The tines should never touch the ground (see box).

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n Consider using a lift tine Lift tines have an angled bottom to ‘flick’ up the grass. This means they can work higher off the ground, which reduces soil contamination risk. n Put in place systems to adjust tines easily Can you put in place in-cab adjustment systems to make tine adjustments easier and reduce time pressures in the field?

25 14/02/2020 12:19

Making haylage Producing your own haylage, rather than buying-in dietary straw, could bring numerous benefits.

Control quality and costs by producing home-grown haylage


ith straw likely to be expensive this year following poor autumn establishment, producing home-grown haylage could be a good option for farmers looking to gain control of feed inputs. Krone’s James Duggleby believes producing haylage on-farm makes more sense compared to buying-in straw, which is of low nutritional value and is often inconsistent. He says: “Straw can be very variable quality and

often needs chopping. “If you’ve got grass on farm, why not make haylage? You can make it yourself, probably with your own equipment, so you JAMES can be more in control of quality and production costs.” Haylage is ‘in-between’ silage and hay and is usually cut at 45-55% dry matter and big baled to undergo fermentation. At 45-55% DM

the crop typically analyses at 12-13% crude protein, 60-65 D-value and 9.5ME. In comparison, wheat straw analyses at around 89% DM, 3-4% crude protein, DUGGLEBY 6-7% ME and 38 D-value. The best time to cut haylage is in August-September when the nutritional value of grass is lower and quality first cut is in the clamp. Haylage’s high dry matter

You can be more in control of quality and production costs

does add to preservation challenges as it is difficult to achieve a rapid drop in pH and thus an effective fermentation.

Principles Mr Duggleby describes it as ‘an easy crop to get wrong’ and emphasises the importance of adhering to some basic principles at harvest

Haylage-making tips JKen Stroud, Volac business manager for South England and Ireland and James Duggleby of Krone, share their tips on making the best possible haylage. n Use quality grass. Haylage is often produced off poor ground. It should be treated like any premium crop. Cut when grass is just at the heading stage, not once it is old and stemmy

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n Aim for 45-55% dry matter. It is better to go wetter and wilt for less time than compromise quality and leave it to wilt for several days n Carry out at least two passes with the tedder to facilitate an even wilt (depending on weather) n Opt for a high-density baler. This will aid consolidation, which is essential for optimum

preservation in a dry crop like haylage n Make sure you achieve a flat profile across the bale. This will avoid air pockets and make it easier to stack n Be aware of puncture risk. Wrapping in the field is best for fermentation, but can add to the risk of punctures n Use four layers of wrap, ideally six n Use a film rather than a

net wrap and then wrap on top. Net can get pockets of air in it n Consider chopping. You do not have to keep haylage long. Chopping to three inches can aid consolidation n Always use an additive. The high dry matter crop, combined with baling, means it is difficult to drop the pH below 5.5, which can create fermentation

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Case study: Haylage provides dry cow solution

Graeme Kilpatrick believes tedding the crop two to three times is key to haylage success.

(see tips box). These focus on encouraging an effective fermentation. He adds: “This is about utilising the grass you have on your farm and not being beholden to an external supply. It is about getting the most from your grass. Can you make haylage to put into the feed mix to get more milk from forage?”

challenges and allow yeasts and moulds to propagate as soon as the bale is unwrapped. This means an additive is a must. Opt for EcoCool for crops <50% DM. When the crop is >50% DM, use Double Action EcoBale, which includes two strains of bacteria, as well as potassium sorbate (a food and feed grade preservative) to knock out yeasts and moulds

JProducing a dedicated, low potassium haylage crop has solved milk fever issues at Craigie Mains Farm, Kilmarnock, while providing a fibrous, palatable forage for dry cows. About four years ago, the farm’s 370-cow herd was struggling with milk fever issues, which was leading to issues with retained foetal membrane and displaced abomasums. “Our issue here is high potassium forage,” explains Graeme Kilpatrick. “We were doing DCAB, high straw diets, but we were always having issues with milk fevers - and really serious milk fevers. It was not uncommon for cows to get three to five bottles of calcium.” Potassium blocks magnesium absorption which is essential for the mobilisation of calcium around calving. As a result, high potassium can lead to milk fever issues. After speaking to other farmers who had got on well with haylage, Mr Kilpatrick decided to produce a dedicated haylage crop from ground that had not received slurry and was subsequently low in potassium. A block of land, six miles away from the main farm proved ideal. Baled haylage was also attractive as the farm did not have the clamp space for a low potassium silage crop. Mr Kilpatrick also thought a high dry matter haylage bale was better for rumen health than baled silage. It was also more convenient to feed bales to a small group of 45-50 dry cows. He says: “The drier the bales, the better they are to handle and stack and the less bales you

Farm facts ■ 263ha (650 acres) ■ 370 Holstein Friesians ■ Calving all year round ■ 10,000 litres a cow a year at 4% fat and 3.2-3.3% protein ■ Milked twice a day ■ Milker’s ration is 85% have as it’s higher dry matter. “It’s a nice product for everybody to work with, including people and cows. There is a nice, sweet smell.” Compared to straw, haylage is also more palatable and does not necessarily need chopping, although Mr Kilpatrick is considering chopping this season to aid intakes. For maximum palatability, he also believes harvesting haylage no drier than 40% DM is a must, otherwise fermentation becomes a challenge and there is increased risk of mould. The team takes two cuts of haylage a year from 34 acres of ground. This is usually cut around mid-June and late-August and is taken off mature leys, which were initially planted as a hay mix for horses. Moving forward, the aim is to sow a specific mix for haylage, although the exact makeup is yet to be decided. About 50 units of a 27:5:5 fertiliser is applied for each cut. Mr Kilpatrick believes tedding the crop out two to three times is vital to achieve the target dry matter. This is particularly the case considering the farm receives an average 42 inches of rainfall a year. He has found it is better to ted at a lower rotor

Grassland & Silage Toolkit

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home-grown, including; home-grown wheat, barley, wholecrop and fodder beet ■ Milkers fed zero grazed grass ■ Dry cows fed haylage and 2-3kg of a dry cow pellet speed after the first pass to stop the crop from ‘lumping up.’ Bales will be double wrapped as a minimum, although three to four layers will be used if the crop is particularly stemmy. The bales are also wrapped in the same place they are stacked so they are only handled once. Both of these actions help reduce plastic puncture risk. Since feeding the low potassium haylage to dry cows, milk fever is now a rarity. “We still give calcium boluses, but it’s very rare to give a calcium bottle and cows are calving without assistance and are happier,” says Mr Kilpatrick.

Graeme Kilpatrick

27 14/02/2020 12:21

Grassland Agronomy Solutions TYPE OF GRASSLAND New Sown Ley (< 1 yr. old)

Sward for Destruction Kyleo 5.0 l/ha Plough and reseed grass after 7 days or clover after 14 days. Direct drill after 1 month

Established (> 1 yr. old)

No Clover


No Clover



April - Aug PastureMaster 2.5 l/ha + Tomahawk 2 0.75 l/ha

Feb - Oct 15th CloverMaster 2.5 l/ha + Squire Ultra 30 g/ha

Thrust 2.5 l/ha + Tomahawk 2 1.0 l/ha

CloverMaster 3.3 l/ha + Squire Ultra 40 g/ha

Sept - Oct CloverMaster 2.5 l/ha + Tomahawk 2 0.75 l/ha

Application after June can only be made to re-sowing of permanent grassland PG01

Thrust 90ml in 10 litres water for Docks Nettle Ragwort Thistles



Thrust 3.5 l/ha

Thrust 3.5 l/ha

Rosette stage, spring or late summer

Plants up to 50cm high, or regrowth post cutting


Docks Thistles Nettles Dandelion Buttercup Cow Parsley


Thrust or PastureMaster PastureMaster 3.5 l/ha 3.5 l/ha 30cm high pre flower or regrowth

Treat autumn and spring pre flower

1 pack of each treats 3 ha (7.4 ac.)

1 pack gives 55 x 10 litre fills

Chickweed & Dandelion

Soft Rush


Tomahawk 2 1.0 l/ha

PastureMaster 3.5 l/ha

Thrust 3.5 l/ha

Up to 20cm diameter

Treat April to June. When waterlogged, use Rattler via Weedwiper

Treat in the autumn at rosette stage

Weeds must be actively growing at application. Water volume = 200 l/ha Grazing interval = 2 weeks Cutting interval = 3 weeks Ragwort - animals should be excluded from treated areas until any ragwort has completely recovered or died and there is no visible sign of the dead weed. Use plant protection products safely. Always read the label and product information before use.

Agritox contains: 500 g/l MCPA. CloverMaster contains: 400 g/l 2,4-DB. Kyleo contains: 240 g/l glyphosate + 160 g/l + 2,4-D. PastureMaster contains: 360 g 2,4-D + 315 g/l MCPA. Rattler contains: 540 g/l glyphosate. Squire Ultra contains: 75% w/w amidosulfuron. Thrust contains: 344 g/l 2,4-D + 120 g/l dicamba. Tomahawk 2 contains: 200 g/l fluroxypyr.

To find out more visit:

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14/02/2020 13:47