Silage season has begun in Callan’s dairy farm outside Adree in Co. Louth, as the harvesting of first cut silage for the 2023 season is underway. The recent good weather has allowed farmers to start harvesting their winter feed stocks. While some farmers have already harvested their crops, others may have to delay for a few days or weeks due to the wetter than usual March and April. The farm is run by Michael and his three sons, Sean, Conor, and Barry, who are milking 480 cows on seven Lely robots. They have a keen interest in machinery, with all the silage and slurry completed in-house.
The Callan’s have already harvested around 175ac of silage, 30ac of which was technically second cut. They harvested 60ac of silage on Valentine’s Day due to good growth rates over the winter months. The remainder of the first cut will be harvested after the weekend once weather conditions improve. Although the crop is in good condition, Barry Callan said that it should have been harvested about 10 days earlier.
During the silage season, safety should be a top priority for farmers. Modern machinery is larger and faster than ever before, which can result in serious injury if an accident were to occur. It is important to check brakes and tires, lights (especially brake lights), steering systems, and pick up hitch condition before operating a tractor. Additionally, keeping windows clean and wipers working for showery conditions is essential. When crops are being brought into the yard, children should be kept out, and anyone working in the yards should be aware of the increased traffic. Many farms have seen an increase in herd size in recent years, but silage pits in many cases have not followed suit. Overfilling pits should be avoided, and if pits are getting too high, either bale what remains or start putting it into a second pit if there is one available.
Silage is a crucial component of the winter diet for cows, and it is essential to get it right. The harvesting of silage crops is a busy period on farms, and it requires careful planning and execution. According to Barry Callan, the key to producing high-quality silage is to achieve a good wilt. This means cutting the crop at the right stage of growth and allowing it to dry out in the field for a day or two before ensiling. The aim is to achieve a dry matter content of around 30%, which will ensure that the silage ferments properly and has a high energy content.
The Callan’s are using a zero-grazing system, which involves cutting the grass in the field and then transporting it to the cows. This system has several advantages, including reducing soil compaction, improving grass quality, and reducing labor requirements. The Callan’s are also using seven Lely robots to milk their cows, which has allowed them to increase their herd size and reduce labor costs. The robots are programmed to milk the cows at specific times, and they can also monitor the cow’s health and milk yield.
The recent wet weather has resulted in more silage being fed to cows than usual. This has led to concerns that there may be a shortage of silage later in the year. However, many farmers are taking steps to ensure that they have enough silage to last the winter. Some are planting extra crops, while others are buying in silage from other farmers. The key is to plan ahead and ensure that there is enough silage to meet the cow’s nutritional needs throughout the winter.
In conclusion, the harvesting of silage is a crucial period for farmers, and safety should be a top priority. The Callan’s dairy farm is using modern technology to increase efficiency and reduce labor costs. Achieving a good wilt is essential for producing high-quality silage, and farmers must plan ahead to ensure that they have enough silage to last the winter.