Analysis of silage can stop problems.
AGRICULTURAL experts are encouraging beef and sheep producers in the North East to get their silage analysed as soon as possible to give them maximum warning of potential problems they could face this winter.
While early published analysis showed a slight improvement on last year's feed value, the figures often relate to fields cut during the sunny days of late April or May and generally on dairy farms in central/southern England. For many parts of the country it has been a poor summer due to cold, rain and even drought.
According to Dr Basil Lowman, a livestock specialist at Scotland's Rural College, one of many things to have suffered is the quality of silage made for feeding next winter.
He said: "For the vast majority of beef and sheep producers making silage in the conditions of June and July has been completely different.
"The cool conditions reduce the grass growth, but not the date when seed heads emerge, resulting in low yields of quite stemmy material.
"For many, conditions then worsened still further, with excessive rainfall."
Dr Lowman said the silage quality can have a huge impact on the amount of winter feed needed, if animal performance is to be maintained. The poorer the quality of the silage the less cattle eat," he said.
"This lower daily silage intake is further reduced by having to feed more barley if animal performance is to be maintained. In some cases concentrate requirements over a 180 day winter feeding period could be increased two or three fold compared with when quality silage is available."
The college recommends farmers contact their local adviser or consultant about sampling their pit. This is best done six weeks after it has been filled to ensure the fermentation is complete and the silage is stable.