As forages comprise a large part of winter diets, the aim is to produce high quality conserved forages, (grass-silage, maize and wholecrop wheat). (See technical note on assessing silage quality).
Every season significant emphasis is placed on conserving high quality forages for winter feeding to the CAFRE Dairy herd, with the aim of maximising milk from forage, while maintaining body condition score and getting cows back in calf. The CAFRE Dairy Centre operates a 3-4 cut silage making system, with the aim of harvesting 1st cut silage in early May. Additionally, two other alternative forages are grown, these being maize and wholecrop wheat/rye. Forage making operations are carried out by a contractor.
The rapid wilting of silages over a 24 hour period is practised to achieve a target dry matter of 30%, while also reducing silage effluent production. Significant effort is put in by all staff when filling the silo. For example, in order to minimise post harvesting losses side sheets are placed on the silo walls, along with rapid filling and consolidation. After filling, the silo is quickly covered and sealed to exclude air.
The pdf below summarises forage quality over the past five years for first/second cut silage, maize and wholecrop wheat.