Poms are beating us at silage
Silage produced by Australian farmers is not up to UK standards according to one of Europe’s largest silage contractors and Australia’s leading silage researcher says there is some merit in his comments.
September edition of Agriculture Today reports Harry Wilson, who operates the largest contract fleet of self-propelled forage harvesters in Europe, has conducted silage workshops in Australia with the support of Dairy Australia and the TopFodder Silage program.
He said silage he had seen on his tour of regional Australia was similar to British methods 30 years ago.
“In the UK about 95 per cent of all forage is made into silage and the focus is on quality,” Mr Wilson said.
“Making silage costs money and you will make more money from high quality silage.”
UK farmers depend on high quality conserved forage for winter feeding and according to Mr Wilson the benefit of wellmade silage over hay is that silage is a more consistent product.
Although conditions were wetter in the UK than in Australia, both UK and Australian farmers needed quick handling for optimum quality and efficient silage production.
He is a strong supporter of tedding to speed up the drying process.
“We have to dry the forage as quickly as possible to preserve quality of the forage. Tedding makes money and leads to much better quality silage,” he said.
Under UK conditions that can mean multiple teddings. Dr Alan Kaiser of NSW DPI, Australia’s leading silage researcher, says there is some merit in Mr Wilson’s comments.
Dr Kaiser has visited the UK for silage research and says Australian farmers can learn a lot from their UK counterparts.
“UK farmers are making very high quality silage under wetter and more difficult conditions,” said Dr Kaiser.
“The pastures and crops they are cutting for silage are potentially of similar quality but they are doing a better job of keeping quality losses to a minimum during the harvesting and storage process.
“Metabolisable energy (ME) levels of UK silages are often 11- 12 megajoules per kilogram dry matter or higher, whereas we often struggle to get silages in the 10-11 MJ range.
“There are Australian farmers doing a very good job of making high quality silage but overall there is enormous potential to improve efficiency and to make more money from silage.”
Simple changes in management such as harvesting at the correct growth stage when the forage is high quality, wilting rapidly to minimise field losses, harvesting at the correct dry matter content and sealing the silage storage airtight, will all improve the quality of the end product, according to Dr Kaiser.
Recognising the potential to lift the efficiency of silage production on Australian dairy farms, Dr Kaiser and other leading Australian silage experts developed the TopFodder Silage program and designed Top- Fodder Silage Farmer Short Courses.
Drawing on local experience and up-to-date overseas technology, the information delivered in the TopFodder short courses will give Australian farmers the principles to match their UK counterparts.
Further information: Helen Burns 02 6938 1947
This story appears in Agriculture Today.