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Jun 17, 2020

Producing and utilising high-quality silage is central to success for a beef unit in mid-Devon.

Jun 17, 2020

Andrew Quick and his son Edward farm 400 acres at Bury Barton Farm, Lapford which is home to 100 mainly Limousin suckler cows split into spring and autumn calving groups and 500 ewes.  Mainly down to grass, they also grow 60 acres of spring barley for wholecrop, 30 acres of forage maize and 70-80 acres of cereals.

They finish all the suckler calves which are weaned at 8 months and will finish at 16-18 months.  They also buy in mainly British Blue and Limousin steers and a few heifers at around five months old.  In total they finish around 250 cattle per year.  Home bred animals and bought in steers are targeted at a 370kg carcase, while bought in heifers go at around 330kg carcase weight.

Quality silage is at the heart of the system.  The Quicks make fermented wholecrop cereals, maize and grass silage which form the basis of growing and finishing rations which typically comprise one third of each forage.  First cut grass is taken in late May with a second cut in mid-June.  Second cut is used for the suckler cows and is allowed to become more stemmy.

“Silage is a big investment for us so we focus on making the best quality we can and also on reducing waste,” Andrew explains.  “The more high-quality forage we can feed, the lower our overall costs.  Silage waste just pushes up costs because all the investment in making silage is related to the feed we put in the clamps, not what we feed out.  So, we do all we can to waste as little as possible.”

Andrew targets making all forages at above 30% dry matter.  Growing cattle are fed 17-18kg of mixed silages per day while the finishers will get 20kg/day.  Both groups are also fed home grown wheat, but Andrew doesn’t feed any purchased protein as there is enough in the grass silage.

“One of our priorities when making silages, particularly wholecrop and maize is achieving good aerobic stability,” Andrew continues.  “We feed out once a day, so we need the forages to keep cool and fresh to ensure we achieve high intakes.

“We also need the clamps to stay cool in the summer when we are use less as we have more cattle out at grass which means we go across the clamp slower.  A face exposed for a long time in hot could lead to increased problems with heating which reduces intakes and feed value as heat is just energy being burnt up.”

To help minimise waste and aerobic spoilage, Andrew has been working with Steve Symons from Lallemand Animal Nutrition and in 2019 used Magniva Platinum inoculants on the wholecrop and maize.

“There are two key objectives when making silage, whatever the crop,” Mr Symons comments.  “The first is to achieve a rapid initial fermentation and pH drop while the second is to keep the crop stable once it is opened.

“Magniva Platinum crop and condition specific forage inoculants, which supersede the Biotal range, combine the proven strain L buchneri 40788 with the totally new patented bacterium L Hilgardii I-4785.  They deliver the rapid initial fermentation and then quickly produce a number of antifungal compounds to knock back the yeasts and moulds responsible for heating, improving immediate aerobic stability, meaning clamps can be opened sooner.  They also improve longer term aerobic stability, protecting the silage while the clamp is open.

“In trials wholecrop silage was ensiled with either no inoculant or with Magniva Platinum Wholecrop The Magniva inoculant kept the silage much cooler for the whole period, meaning more energy would be available to feed.

“With margins continuing to be squeezed, focussing on maximising the use of high-quality forage will be crucial for beef producers,” he concludes.