The cost of silage yield vs quality

If you are worried that you can’t afford to make multi-cut silage this year due to escalating prices, do a partial budget to calculate the cost of not doing it.

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A silage regime based on four-plus cuts is designed to improve forage quality to 12MJ ME/kgDM. 

“Some farms might be financially better off sticking to three cuts of silage, with rising nitrogen and diesel costs,” says independent consultant, Dr George Fisher. “Yet if this lowers silage quality from 12 ME to 11 ME, you are saving on your fertiliser bill only to buy expensive feed to make up this energy shortfall.” 

Instead, Dr Fisher says, you should work out the numbers for your farm before making any snap decisions. “There isn’t a blanket solution, it depends on individual circumstances. With the biggest bill hike this year being in feed costs, it’s important to work out whether overall it is worth making a better-quality forage with more yield over several cuts.” 

Research shows an average response of 28 kgDM/ha for every 1 kg N applied. But if there is waste in the forage process and a cow only eats 21kg DM/day, there is scope to look at reducing waste and boosting efficiency. You might need to consider what you grow, how you preserve or store what you grow and how much your cows actually eat.