Second cut

A lot of farmers managed to get first cut silage harvested over the last week. Yields are reported to be more mixed than normal, with some crops not having bulked up to the same degree as expected. The good part is that they have been cut reasonably early and there is now an opportunity to get a good second cut too, if required. From a national perspective, the more silage made this summer the better as it allows for surplus stocks to be replenished. But whether or not to close up for second cut is an individual decision. It is more expensive to make than first cut, but it will go a long way towards making up any deficit. To know where you stand, pits should be measured once silage is settled after a couple of weeks. To calculate the amount of silage in a pit, measure the length x breadth x settled height in metres and divide by 1.35 to get tonnes equivalent. Then multiply by the dry matter to get the tonnes of dry matter figure. Pit silage will typically be around 20% to 24% dry matter. If closing up ground for second cut, the advice is to apply 60 units/ac of nitrogen, 10 units/ac of phosphorus, 60 units/ac of potash and 10 units/ac of sulphur. Ideally, all the P and K will be provided in 2,000 gallons/ac of cattle slurry with the nitrogen supplied in 1.2 bags/ac of protected urea and sulphur. Relatively thick cattle slurry, which is spread with a low emission slurry spreader, will deliver around six units/ac of nitrogen for every 1,000 gallons/acre spread.


On pages 36 and 37 this week there is a template for managing cashflow. A lot of farmers I speak to comment on how scarce cash is getting, regardless of how profitable they are. There are three factors influencing profitability on dairy farms: milk price, costs and weather. For the last 18 months, farmers have been caught in a cycle of high costs and bad weather. Costs were high in 2022 but the milk price was much higher so margin was good. But that changed at the start of 2023 and there has been no improvement since, and the weather has been bad meaning the amount of milk being sold is behind expectations. For those with high drawings, high borrowings or a lot of leased land the situation is more acute. Cash needs to be actively managed and the starting point is to work out the current position. Fill in the template and then assess your options. Cutting costs is obviously the main option, but easier said than done.


From now on, clover will really start to contribute free nitrogen to soils. The best way to make use of this is by easing off on chemical nitrogen. Some farmers will turn off the nitrogen tap completely over the coming months and let clover do all the work, but the general advice from Teagasc is to spread half rate chemical nitrogen, or apply soiled water to the clover fields to keep some applied nitrogen in the system. This means spreading the equivalent of eight to 12 units/ac after grazing. In other cases farmers will skip a round and apply full rate nitrogen every second application. With many farmers under pressure for N allowances, they must make full use of clover.