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Jul 03, 2020

Silage proves to be a rainmaker

Jul 03, 2020

The decision to open a 14-year-old silage pit may well have proved to be the turning point of the drought for Yaamba district beef producer and veterinarian, Neil Farmer.

Neil and Clare Farmer run up to 1000AE Brahman, Droughtmaster and Brangus cattle on ‘Lake Learmonth’, a 2400 ha property adjoining the Fitzroy River 45 km north of Rockhampton, Queensland.

With the property receiving less than half its usual rainfall during 2019, Neil decided to open one of the property’s two silage pits in the first week of January this year.

“Like everyone, we were after a bit of feed,” he says.

“We purchased this property in 2006 and the two silage pits were already there.

“There was about 400 or 500 tonnes of silage left in one of the pits and we opened it up and did an analysis to make sure it was OK.

“We were quite familiar with making silage from when our family used to run a feedlot and I was quite surprised at how good it was.

“It smelt a bit ‘vinegary’ but there was no wastage at all on top or bottom.

“The cows really took to it.

“We fed it out straight for two weeks using a backhoe and a tip truck.

“Ironically, we’ve 215 mm of rain since Christmas and the cows are happy with the fresh grass, so we’ll cover the silage back up and save it for next time.”

The silage was produced by Priebbenow Silage Contractors from an irrigated forage sorghum crop grown on the property when it was still owned by the Alice Springs Pastoral Company.

The analysis found the silage had a digestible energy of 10 MJ/kg and a protein level of 9%. “This is still reasonably handy feed after 14 years,” Lallemand Animal Nutrition Technical Services Manager, David Lewis, says.

“The vinegary smell demonstrates the silage was well preserved with the correct acids were produced in the fermentation. These acids are still there doing their job of preserving the silage and will continue to do so once the silage is resealed to stop the entry of air and water.

“The forward planning of the previous owners has proven to be a valuable asset for Neil. We often hear stories about farmers digging up quality silage 10 or 15 years after it was sealed.”

Lallemand Animal Nutrition is Australia’s leading supplier of silage technology and technical support when it comes to developing and understanding forage based feeding systems, silage inoculants, sealing systems and associated technologies.