Beef and dairy farmers are being encouraged to start forage planning now ahead of the 2023 silage season.

The plea from Lientjie Colahan, technical sales support at Lallemand Animal Nutrition, comes following a challenging season in 2022, which has left many farmers with little or very poor-quality silage for their cows this winter.

“There are many farms that aren’t in a particularly good forage situation based on the season last year,” says Ms Colahan.

“Now is a good time to focus minds and start thinking about how much forage you need as a minimum for your animals next season and what kind of quality you want to produce.”

She recommends including your nutritionist, agronomist and contractor in any forage planning discussions.

“Farmers should work out a forage budget with their nutritionist based on their system requirements,” adds Ms Colahan.

“The nutritionist can tell them how much grass silage, and of what quality, they need per day to achieve a certain number of litres of milk or daily liveweight gain from forage.

“These discussions might also highlight that there isn’t enough space to make or store the amount of forage needed – it's better to know that beforehand and make an adjustment to the plan.”

She says your agronomist can provide advice on how to improve grass yields by adapting the farm’s fertiliser plan or re-seeding policy, while also giving insight into the true cost of producing silage.


Lientjie Colahan - Rumen Forage Technical Support

Lientjie Colahan - Rumen Forage Technical Support


“It’s important for farmers to remember that any money they spend on making forage will have been spent whether they feed it or whether they throw it away because of spoilage,” adds Ms Colahan.

Things to discuss with the contractor, or for the farmer to consider if they make their own silage, include timing and clamp construction.

Ms Colahan says this is especially important if farmers are considering cutting earlier than they usually would this year.

“Very young and lush grass will compact more easily so put thin layers in the clamp and roll it, but don’t over-compact it,” she adds.

“Over-compaction results in effluent production and losing more of the really good nutrients out of that silage.”

Ms Colahan’s other advice for forage planning includes making use of Lallemand’s pre-cut grass testing service, and making sure you have everything you need for silage-making, such as silage sheets and your inoculant, at least two weeks before you plan to make your first cut.

“Pre-cut testing helps to ensure the crop is at the optimum stage for cutting. Farmers should start sampling three weeks before the previous year’s cutting date, given the yearly variation in grass growth, to monitor nitrate, NDF and sugar content.

“Making grass silage is easy but making really good grass silage is incredibly difficult,” adds Ms Colahan.

“If silaging didn’t go 100 per cent to plan last year, don’t give up on it. Think about what you could have done better and what went really well and use that information to plan for this silage season. Making incremental improvements in silage-making will add up to a big difference.”