Have just enough silage to get you through a sticky patch

In yet another tricky forage year, it’s tempting to wish you’d kept more silage in stock to cover a drought. 

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But if you are risk-averse, the temptation is to go to the other extreme and always ensure you have at least six months’ worth in the clamp. However, having too much silage on hand year on year is a waste, points out independent consultant Dr George Fisher. Ideally, he says, plump for an amount between the extremes.

Use your five or ten year averages for grass growth, farm weather patterns and actual silage yields. Then balance the risk of running out with the temptation to hold too much silage in stock and potentially lose quality feed through waste.

"In Lean Management, the aim is to work out how much you need and decide the average between a good and bad year. Manage the risk. Running out of silage is a waste due to the cost, while having too much silage on hand is also a waste – if you are holding onto six months’ worth of silage, that is another winter of feed!" says Dr Fisher.

To work out how much silage you need every year – in both dry matter and fresh weight – use AHDB’s Feed and Forage Calculator. Then translate this into how much acreage to cut.

"Get a feel for what yields are like from your farm in poor and good years. You know how much cows were eating over winter and what was left over," he adds.