HOMEMADE silage has the potential to provide management flexibility and shorten the growing phase of the beef production pathway, according to Jordan Minniecon, technical services manager, Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
"Silage made from grain crops can be the backbone of on-farm feeding systems," Mr Minniecon said.
“This strategy involves being set up for opportunity cropping, with the aim of conserving enough feed to provide for supplementary feeding requirements during three to four years of below average rainfall.”
Typically a combination of silage, molasses, cotton seed, grain, hay and protein meal are fed in on-farm silage systems and the ingredients are usually mixed in a feed wagon.
"The level of inclusion depends on the desired rate of gain, the quality of the silage and the relative cost of other feeds to balance the ration," Mr Minniecon said.
“Most of the silage produced in northern Queensland down into NSW come from irrigated corn and rain grown sorghums.
“Corn has highly digestible grain and fibre, requiring a large amount of water and management.
“Varieties are best chosen on their ability to produce grain in the local environment.
“It’s preferable to choose ‘starch’ type corns with soft endosperm rather than processing types with a hard glassy grain.
"Conventional grain sorghums make great silage, with higher energy than other silage types.
“However some yield is sacrificed in the process.
“Winter cereals also make great silage, even if the yields under dryland conditions are less than the summer crops.
“Irrigation of these crops during winter can be cost effective when evaporation rates are much lower."
Introducing silage feeding requires some planning and decision making about which classes of animals will be fed and for how long as there are benefits to be gained from supplementary feeding animals during breeding, weaning and back-grounding.
"The body condition of cattle, particularly females, is strongly correlated with fertility and performance levels of the herd,” Mr Minniecon said.
"Optimum body condition will improve both pregnancy rates and weaning weights.
“In the case of replacement heifers, correct nutrition is vital as nutritional stress could delay puberty and decrease breeding performance in young breeding females.
- Lallemand Animal Nutrition offers a full range of products and services relating to silage production, including advice on planning and budgeting, variety selection, harvest management, nutrition and training.