Getting the basics right for hay and silage making will boost your farm’s forage harvesting productivity and efficiency, and in turn, boost your operation’s bottom line. Get it wrong and risk the loss of potential quality forage.
Timing is the key to maximizing the quality of forage harvest, be it hay or silage. In this blog, we share tips on the best time to cut, tedder, rake and bale to produce the best quality forage.
When to cut for the best silage
When deciding the best time to cut grass for silage, you need to consider the following: the weather, the grass's growth stage and soil conditions. Ideal weather conditions would normally be a window of at least two or three days featuring weather with low humidity & no rainfall, as these conditions make for faster drying.
The grass is ready to cut when the leaves are fully developed, but just before the seed heads appear.
Cutting too early will result in lower yields as the leaf is not fully developed, while cutting too late will produce silage with a lower nutrient value as plant growth goes into producing seed & not stem or leaf matter. Finally, when cutting you should always leave the damper paddocks until last.
When to tedder for best silage
Once the grass is cut, spreading it over the paddock with a tedder allows it to dry faster, which means less waiting time till it can be baled. Less moisture reduces the risk of rot during storage, hence the importance of ensuring your forage is at the correct moisture level prior to raking & baling.
Hay mown early in the morning should allow for a wilting period of a couple hours (two to four) and ted while the hay is still moist so leaves do not shatter. In damper conditions, tedding may need to be done immediately after cutting, followed by a second pass the next day.
When to rake and bale silage
The timing of this is dictated by the forage’s moisture content. Wrapped silage bales should have a moisture content between 45 and 55%. If it is below 45%, less acid for fermentation is produced and the pH level is higher, creating a higher risk of overheating and combustion. Forage baled above 55% moisture content is at higher risk of secondary fermentation and has less dry matter per bale, decreasing the feed value as the water content is higher. Silage bales should be wrapped within four hours of baling.
When to rake and bale hay
As with silage, the timing of hay baling is dictated by moisture content, with the optimum being just below 20% (although this varies with bale size). Small square bales should not have more than 18 to 20% moisture. Large square bales are more densely packed and should be between 12 and 16%.
For round bales, the optimum is 15% moisture.
Hay and silage from your own paddocks should be your most efficient and cost-effective winter feed. Attention to detail, particularly on the timing of harvest and on crop moisture levels, will ensure you make the most of that resource. Your operation’s bottom line will benefit from the extra effort taken to get it right
Check out the range of Sitrex rakes for sale in New Zealand: Sitrex range