Spring is well and truly apon us. The grass is growing like mad, and if your farm is anything like mine, your animals that were bellowing at any chance to get some extra tucker, now have their mouths full of green grass and are struggling to keep up with grass growth.
Now is the time (when the grass is abundant) to conserve any surplus feed for use in the winter months.
There are three options for feed conservation (saving grass)
Silage or baleage provides the best quality feed but is also the most expensive. Silage is stored in stacks or large bags and covered in plastic and usually weighed down with tyres, this keeps the oxygen out and allows the anerbic bacteria to thrive and stops decomposition, therefore preserving the feed. Silage is mostly used by dairy farmers and requires a tractor and silage wagon to feed it out. Baleage is similar to silage, with the main diference being the feed is baled and then wraped in plastic, either in a tube or individualy, baleage has a higher drymater content than silage and usually is a better quality feed than pit silage, being in bales also reduces wastage and makes feeding out a small amount more convienent, the downside to baleage is it is more expensive than silage. Baleage is also used by dairy farmers, and is being used more and more by beef and sheep farmers expecialy in more intensive farming systems.
What about lifestylers? There are small round balers that are used for making baleage these are great for the lifestyle farmer as they can be feed out without the need for machinery. For feeding out baleage you will need a tractor and a bale feeder.
Hay is the more traditional method of feed conversation (saving grass) and is usually done when the grass is near the heading stage in early summer, when the days are long and sun is hot. Hay is cheaper and easier to make than silage as long as the sun shines. Hay can either be baled into round, square or conventional bales, the later of which can easily be handled. Hay needs to be kept out of the weather and will keep for up to 2 or 3 years if need be. Hay has a lower feed value than silage or baleage.
This involves shuting up a paddock and grazing it when there is a feed shortage. Because there is no harvesting involved the costs are greatly reduced. This also encourages the pasture to self seed resulting in a significant increase in the amount of rye grass in the pasture. The saved pasture can be feed at any time, preferably with breakfeeding.
I hope this information helps you with what ever system you choose to conserve your feed. If you have any questions please give me a call or email I'm happy to try and help where I can.
Look out for our blog on feeding supplements next - bring on the summer!
DIY advice for lifestylers, written by Kiwi Cattle Yards owner, Euan Seymour.