Quality over quantity: Monitor Farm to discuss strategies to improve silage

Strategies to boost silage quality and optimise herd and calf health will be the focus of the next Borders Monitor farm meeting on Wednesday, March 6 at Whitriggs Farm, near Denholm.

Robert and Lesley Mitchell farm in partnership with their son Stuart keeping around 170 suckler cows. The family have always been passionate about producing the very best silage that they can and currently take two to three cuts each year using their own forage wagon, producing an average of 1,500t of silage annually from roughly 100ha.

“We are generally very happy with the silage we produce at Whitriggs, but our focus has always been quality over quantity,” said Robert Mitchell.

The family introduced short term leys of red clover and Italian ryegrass into the crop rotation around six years ago, which they say has helped improve the quality of the silage they produce.

At the meeting, ruminant nutritionist Robert Gilchrist from ANM’s Farm Profit Progamme will run an interactive session to make farmers think about their own silage production and how they can improve it in advance of silage making this spring and summer.

“Most livestock farmers produce silage, and I’m keen to encourage them to think about how much it actually costs to produce the silage they make.

“Only then can they start to make accurate cost comparisons between making and feeding their own silage against feeding other crops or purchased feed.”

Gilchrist will also highlight the potential cost savings that can be made by targeting good quality silage to livestock with the highest needs.

And attendees will be asked to try their hand at identifying what they think is the ‘’best’’ silage from a range of samples provided by management team members.

As the feed requirements of dry suckler cows are lower than growing or finishing cattle, managing suckler cow condition when feeding high-quality silage can be a problem.

Gilchrist will, therefore, suggest some strategies to help keep cows in the optimum condition when feeding good silage.

Other topics

George Caldow, Head of SAC Veterinary Services, will also discuss Johne’s and the effect it can have on the performance and profitability of suckler herds.

The group will then move to the nearby Auld Cross Keys Hotel in Denholm for lunch, followed by a session on colostrum management, led by Bridget Girvan from MSD Animal Health.

The meeting on Wednesday, March 6 will begin at Whitriggs farm, near Denholm, at 10:00am before moving to the Auld Cross Keys Hotel for lunch and the afternoon session.

The meeting is expected to finish by 3:00pm. To reserve your place contact Stephen Young, one of the project facilitators, on: [email protected].