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HAMILTON. Tatyoon _ Penshurst _ Woorndoo. Dr Steve Cotton. Outline. Importance of testing Coring silage Subjective assessment Objective assessment DM NDF Digestibility ME and CP WSC and Ash Factors affecting quality Comparing the cost of silages Review of 12-13’ season

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Tatyoon _ Penshurst _ Woorndoo

Dr Steve Cotton



  • Importance of testing

  • Coring silage

  • Subjective assessment

  • Objective assessment

    • DM

    • NDF

    • Digestibility

    • ME and CP

    • WSC and Ash

  • Factors affecting quality

  • Comparing the cost of silages

  • Review of 12-13’ season

  • Stock requirements


How can you make an informed decision on how much to feed your stock if you don’t know the quality?



You can’t!

You need to have it tested!


Importance of testing?

  • Test before you feed –

    • Determine if stock requirements can be met

    • Calculate feed rations

    • Budget for feed gaps

    • Informed management decisions

    • Utilise feed efficiently, manage stock effectively

  • Test before you buy –

    • Insist on knowing what you are purchasing

Testing silage coring

  • AFIA guidelines

    • Use a hay corer (We have loan corers available)

    • Core 10 -15 bales

    • Select at random until bag is full

Testing silage - Coring

  • Core “across” not with the flakes

  • Tape up holes immediately


Core Vs Grab Sample

Core sample

Grab Sample

  • Takes longer to obtain sample

  • Uniform stalk length

  • Representative of bale and paddock

  • Reduces processing time by ¾

  • Results accurate and meaningful

  • Easy

  • No uniformity

  • Not representative

  • Increases processing time

  • Results less accurate

S ubjective assessment colour

Subjective assessment- Colour

Greeny/brown Light amber brown Dark brown

  • Normal

  • Good mix of yield & quality

  • Indicates good fermentation

  • Cut too late

  • > % mature grasses

  • > DM but < quality

  • Indicates heating

  • < DDM & CP

  • Poor sealing &/or compaction

Subjective assessment aroma

Subjective assessment- Aroma

Not Desirable

1. Musty/mouldy/composty = poor compaction

Tobacco/caramel/burnt sugar = heat damaged

Vinegar = poor fermentation

Common with low DM and low sugar silages

4. Sweet/fruity = > % yeasts present, high ethanol levels

5. Slightly sweet = heavily wilted low fermentation

6. Mild/acidic/yoghurt = normal



Objective silage quality









Dry Matter As tested Vs As Fed

  • Labs traditionally report on DM(%) basis (after oven drying), BUT:

  • When feeding out silage it is not oven dried SO:

  • Need to correct values to “As Fed”

  • Use the formula DM(%) x ME as tested/100(This is calculated for you in your Feed Logic report)

C onsider dry matter dm

Consider Dry Matter (DM)

Based on a 300kg weaner gaining 0.5kg/day

Dry matter

Too low

Dry Matter

Too high

< 30%

> effluent, < fermentation

Loss of nutrients

  • >50-55%

    • < anaerobic conditions

    • > chance of heating & mould growth

Baled silage can have > DM(%) than pit

Neutral detergent fibre ndf

Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF)

Predictor of dry matter intake (DMI)

High NDF reduces intake


Based on a 500kg cow

Target variable but < 55% of DM is good

Importance of fibre

Importance of Fibre

  • Assists in rumen movement, mixing and rumination

  • Stimulates saliva production

  • Fibre slows the flow through the rumen to give the microbes more time to digest the feed

    Feeds high in fibre


Long stemmy





  • Digestibility of Pasture

Source: Horizon Ag Website

Grass plant Clover plant



10 Kg eaten

Measure of how much food is digested by the animal

Silage target > 66% + of DM

3 Kg Dung

70% Digestible

Me and cp

ME and CP

The higher the ME values the better!

CP is less critical – no point exceeding min req.


> 10MJ ME/kg DM

> 12% CP for pasture silage (to satisfy stock requirements)

> 18% CP for legume silage(vetch/clover/lucerne)

Remember: Livestock requirements vary

The better the feed quality, the less you need to feed!

Wsc ash

WSC & Ash

WSC concentration important in parent material

Usually low in silage – not reported

  • Ash value maybe irrelevant

  • Includes inorganic minerals that are not burnt off at 550oC

  • Will vary within and between paddocks

  • Target < 10%


Factors affecting quality

  • Harvest Date

Source: Steen (1992)

A 7-day delay in harvest decreases quality by 0.25-0.6 MJ/kg DM.

A 1% increase in digestibility in cattle will increase

milk production by approx. 0.3 kg/day

Weight gain by 45 g/day

Good vs poor quality silage

  • Remember:

  • Good quality silage has:

  • Digestibility > 66%

  • ME > 10 MJ ME/kg DM

  • CP > 12%

  • NDF < 55% DM

  • DM 30-55%

Good Vs poor quality silage



Perennial Ryegrass


Source: Successful Silage – Top Fodder Manual 2006

Results what do they mean

Results – what do they mean?


Before Making Silage………

  • Consider testing parent material for:

  • Quality – NIR testing

  • Quantity – DM only

Silage quality is only as good as the materials that go into it!

Comparing the cost of silages

Comparing the cost of silages


Cost/MJ of ME not $/t

Source: Successful Silage – Top Fodder Manual 2006

12 13 season average

12’-13’ season average

  • Small reduction in quality from previous season

  • Variation in:

  • Where samples come from

  • 2. What the season is doing in local areas


How do the results translate to stock requirements?


How much silage to feed?

Need to know:

1. Animal requirements

2. ME and CP from pasture

3. Is there a deficit?

4. If yes, how much supplement you feed depends on the quality of the feed.

You need to have the feed tested!

Stock requirements

Stock requirements

DRY SHEEP (maintenance)LATE PREGNANCY (day 150)

9.6MJ ME/day 15MJ ME/day (single)

6-8% CP 17MJ ME/day (twin)

10-12% CP


19.5MJ ME/day 24MJ ME/day 29MJ ME/day

~ 12% CP 14% CP 15+ % CP


Stock requirements

DRY COW (maintenance 600kg) WEANERS 300kg

80 MJ ME/day 35 MJ ME/day maintenance

8-10% CP 57 MJ/day gaining 0.5kg/day

76 MJ/day gaining 1.0kg/day

8,10, 13% CP respectively

COW WITH CALF AT FOOT (up to 4 mths)

100 MJ ME/day

10-11% CP

Stock requirements1

Stock requirements

600kg Fresian

63 MJ ME/day maintenance

+ 1MJ ME/day if pregnant (1-5 months)

+ 20MJ ME/day at 9 months pregnant

+ 5MJ ME/km walked to and from dairy on hilly terrain

+ 5 MJ ME/L milk produced (3.2% protein, 3.6% fat)

TOTAL > 200MJ ME/day + 12-18% CP (depending on




  • Coring silage is important – We can loan you a corer!

  • Subjective assessment (aroma & colour)

  • Consider DM

  • Harvest time affects quality

  • Think about cost of silage in c/MJ ME NOT in $/t

  • Stock requirements change over the season

  • Measure to manage

Before you feed it, buy it or sell it, TEST IT!


For further information on ewe nutritional management


  • Lifetime Ewe Management

  • A program for sheep producers


    • Weaning and preparing ewes for next year’s joining

    • Setting up for joining/manipulating ewe condition

    • Linking ewe condition at joining with lambing potential

    • Mid-pregnancy-looking forward and planning for lambing

    • Late pregnancy and lambing

    • Economicanalysis of different feeding strategies

RIST Cattle Health Course meeting 1 Fertility& Reproduction Aug 2009David Rendell



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