With silage clamps short of forage across the country, livestock farmers have to use the next few weeks wisely if they are to make up for lost ground, according to independent grassland consultant Dr George Fisher, who believes producers should plan to boost forage reserves as much as possible.

“First off, do a feed budget between now and next spring. What forage stocks do you have and what do you need? Plan to use cutting and grazing to get what you can from home-grown forage and use your contacts to buy-in the rest.

“Coming out of the drought it’s a good plan to cut what you have as soon you can and bale it as this will remove the seed heads that have been produced in abundance due to drought stress.”

Whilst there is a case for applying additional N fertiliser, the best plan is to first leave the nutrients you have already applied to do their work.

“If you’ve used Ammonium Nitrate (AN) it will still be available to plants but, those who applied urea may have lost the majority of the available N by now so this may need a top up with AN.

“Keep your nerve after this recovery cut and then go for a proper silage cut in 4-5 weeks time and then another one after the same period if you can, even if this is late October/early November,” said Dr Fisher.

Whilst NVZ rules say no manufactured fertiliser N should be applied to grassland after September 15, this might be allowed if there are exceptional circumstances.

According to trails conducted by SRUC in Aberdeen, farmers can apply up to 50kg N/ha (40units/acre) at this time of year. In the 2018 trial, a 1.5t DM/ha (600kg DM/acre) advantage to using the recommended rates of N and S at second cut compared to half rates, even in the drought period.

This level of response in autumn grass is worth 400kg concentrate energy/acre which is around £90/acre (£250/ha).