Attention to detail when producing and utilizing high quality large square bale silage is an essential component in the successful management for Gary and Jess Yeoman’s milking goat herd.

The couple, both former Harper Adams University graduates, farm 300 acres close to Abergavenny in Monmouthshire. In 2002, they made the decision to convert the farm from dry stock to producing milk from goats.

The herd comprises 1000 head of Saanen and Toggenburg cross goats which are milked twice a day through a 20/40 DeLaval swing milking parlour. Herd average is 1200litres per head with butterfat at 4% and protein at 3%.

The Scottish Farmer: Some 800 large square bales are harvested from a mix of perennial rye grass and white clover as well as lucerne and forage maize grown on a rotation with a regular reseeding programmeSome 800 large square bales are harvested from a mix of perennial rye grass and white clover as well as lucerne and forage maize grown on a rotation with a regular reseeding programme

They feed a total mixed ration (TMR) consisting of home-grown forages and cereals through a Keenan feed wagon. They also keep 20 pedigree Welsh Black suckler cows; 20 store cattle; and 38 beef calves and young stock under 24 months.

Goat’s milk is converted into cheese locally, at Abergavenny Creamery, which gives the farm a premium price compared to milk from dairy cows. The couple has hosted many customer visits over the years including supermarkets, food service wholesalers and fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC as well as a visit from the future Prince and Princess of Wales the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2002 to mark St David's Day.

Gary is a former NFU Cymru county chairman and Jess is a previous winner of the NFU Cymru Wales Female Farmer of the Year Award in 2018.

Feed management

When it comes to fodder Gary says: "You need to be very careful with forage quality, storage and management; goats are fussy eaters and are more susceptible to problems (such as listeriosis) caused by poor quality forage and they can also suffer from acidosis."

The focus is on making the best possible quality silage when it is such a big investment.

"We like to give a balanced diet and make some haylage to mix in for a healthy diet. All our forage is baled in large square bales as we find this gives us more flexibility to take crops out at the right stage and at feeding time, the bales are easy to handle and stay fresh for longer unlike a large silage clamp face," said Gary.

They produce 800 large square bales from three cuts per year, with a mix of perennial rye grass and white clover as well as lucerne and forage maize grown on a rotation with a regular reseeding programme.

Bales are brought in for wrapping as the farm has a level free draining hard-core yard; this ensures the bales are not standing in water during heavy rain. Bales are stacked up to four rows high depending on dry matter with the aim being to produce silage of 35%-40% DM.

Young goats are fed hay while the older ones have access to haylage and silage.

Gary added, "We like new technology and innovations and are always keen to see the benefits in all farms. We have a robot that follows a magnetic strip in the floor and keeps the silage pushed up to the goats in the feed passage, always keeping fresh fodder within easy reach."

Such is the quality of silage produced on farm that the couple won a big bale silage competition in 2021. It produced analysis of 36.0% DM; crude protein 17.6%, D-value 70.5, ME of 11.3, and pH of 4.6.

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and the Federation of Welsh Grassland Societies run the all-Wales clamp and big bale silage competitions.

Dave Davies, from the Silage Solutions consultancy and technical judge said “These were stand out winners both in terms of silage quality but also the value they were getting from their preserved forages. They have an impressive goat dairy system with conserved forage at the heart of the system. Ensiling not only grass but also utilising lucerne grass mixtures.”

"When it comes to bale wrapping, we have always used Silotite®,” said Gary.

“It is a quality film that we purchase from the local Wynnstay Agriculture store. Gary used Silotite original boxed product, which has been market-leading for 40 years, before deciding to make the switch to SilotitePro1800®, based on a recommendation by the store manager. “We decided to give it a go and were very impressed”.

“SilotitePro1800 is 300m longer, which gives us an extra three to four bales from each reel,” said Gary.

“This is a big benefit for us, as it decreases our downtime and overall reel usage. Having less handling, transportation, and storage is great”.

SilotitePro1800 is supplied in sleeve packaging, which is made from the same PE film as the bale wrap. The sleeve packaging is 10 times lighter than an equivalent cardboard carton. Both the balewrap and packaging can be recycled together where PE film collections exist. “Eliminating the need for bulky boxes and simplifying recycling is an added convenience for sure. We have also reduced our packaging waste considerably,” explained Gary.