Switching from a traditional two-cut to a multi-cut silage system has made a huge difference not only to the productivity of Grant Limond's 270-cow milking herd from Drumore, Ayrshire, but also overall profitability.

Mr Limond who milks 200 Friesians and 70 Fleckvies in a spring and autumn block calving system just outside Kirkmichael, relies on a grass silage diet with early spring grazing used to maximise cutting potential and ensure maximum energy levels for the cows.

With cows averaging 6300litres on a twice daily milking regime, the goal has always been to increase milk from forage, which for the past two years has seen the business work with ruminant specialist Calum Smith of Advanced Nutrition.

“The dairy industry has long been in a period of uncertainty and with Brexit underway, it seems this will continue. So, for us maximising the potential of forage already on the farm was an obvious route to take," said Grant.

"We were keen to work with Calum at Advanced Nutrition, it’s rare that nutritionists value forage as highly as we do – it’s 60-80% of the diet. Since working together, we’ve now gone from a two cut to a multi-cut silage system, made possible with the contractor being aware of the change and coming in when we need him.”

Grant has been able to produce 1.5 tonnes per acre more of silage in the clamp. The team base the number of cuts on the season on careful monitoring, looking closely at the sward, as well as being adaptable to the weather. On average, they will leave six weeks between cuts, but are not fixed on this.

“We make educated decisions. Looking at fresh grass samples and grass leaf stages, we back calculate how much forage we need for the cattle for the start of the winter. We’ve currently taken 16 days off our first cut date to allow us the window to be flexible with weather. Our main aim is getting the right dry matter and more protein and energy into the pit.”

Calum added: “The results have really made a difference to the farm. We are getting 5-6kg more forage into the cows and over the two-year period we’ve seen the cows go from 6300 litres a lactation to 7000 litres. We are still only using a tonne of feed per cow and Grant is sending away 20,000 litres more per month. In three years, we will have seen him increase production by 500,000 litres which is a 33% increase.”

Not only that, milk quality and overall animal health has improved, with higher solids to improve the milk contract. The figures can be seen in the table below.

2017 2018 2019

Milk yield (l per cow) 6300 6600 7000

Butterfat % 4.1 4.2 4.3

Protein % 3.3 3.5 3.6

The results have been in part due to the increase in cuts across the season, but also through the ability to maintain the quality of the silage throughout the year. Grant puts this down to the use of a silage additive – Bon Silage Fit.

“It adds more expense, but the results speak for themselves, we wouldn’t be without it. We’ve had no waste on the pit or the trough – not even a grape full!”

The additive helps to prevent spoilage and works by shifting the fermentation acid patterns to produce more acetic acid and propylene glycol which increases aerobic stability to stop the clamp face from heating. Propylene glycol is also beneficial to cows in early lactation to reduce the effects of negative energy balance, due to its ability to reduce body fat mobilisation.

Pit management is also worth paying particular attention too.

Grant added: “I always roll twice as compacting the pit is key. Then get the sheet on as soon as you can followed by astro mats and tyres so there is no space on top at all.”

Calum continued: “Planning and adaptability with silage making is key, set yourself goals and have a plan to achieve them. Our next plan for Drumore is to get to a target of 5000 litres from forage. We’ll continue to manage the soil’s pH and phosphate levels to give the grass the best chance. Testing the grass before cutting, also helps a great deal as it gives an indication of nitrate levels in the sward and then it’s just down to the weather!”