Silage in November
With the exceptionally wet summer and autumn, many farmers have not been able to cut all their silage ground and on checking silage stocks, calculated that they do not have enough silage to last through to next spring.
If there comes a settled spell and ground conditions improve, is it possible to make silage? Or should the grass be carried over until the spring before either grazing or ensiling?
Silage preservation is basically the pickling of grass, through the production of Lactic Acid from sugars by Lactic Acid Bacteria. It is well known that in order to make silage, sugars have to be 3% and above in order to allow sufficient levels of Lactic Acid production. We also need to ensure the right bacteria are available in large enough numbers, in order to dominate the fermentation process and prevent a butyric or clostridia fermentation which can occur from soil contamination.
The table below shows fresh grass analysis of silage swards at the end October 2017:
As the above table shows swards are low Dry Matter, low in WSC (sugars), average in Protein and low in ME (energy). This material is far from ideal for a good fermentation, never mind the possible contamination by soil, however with a helping hand through the use of a good inoculant such as Supersile it should still be possible to make well fermented silage.
With wet forage it is vital to achieve a fast and deep fermentation to achieve stability, and preserve nutrients. Looking at the quality of November grass this will be difficult to achieve, without the use of an inoculant formulated for low DM, low sugar grass, such as Supersile.
Supersile contains both efficient Lactic acid bacteria and parented Enzymes, which open the bonds in grass fibres and release glucose molecules, which the bacteria can then use as additional sugar for acid production. The addition of specific enzymes will get the grass over the magic 3% WSC value allowing Lactic acid bacteria to produce acid and preserve the silage and nutrients within it.
Some farmers have suggested making silage if the ground is frozen to get around poor soil traffic ability, however Lactic Acid bacteria need temperatures above 5 C, hence ensiling frozen grass may result in the fermentation failing to start.
While November silage will never be record breaking in terms of quality, it will help to fill silos and provided it is fermented correctly will be a useful source of forage in a year such as this.