Farm Management

Hay and silage fact sheet offers guide for growers

Canola Hay
Canola crops are among those being cut in 2018 for hay and silage. Photo: GRDC.

Grain growers who cut moisture-stressed and frost-affected crops for hay and silage in 2018 are advised to record their crop management strategies, including feed quality and livestock outcomes for benchmarking purposes.

Record keeping (notes, photographs and videos) will form an important resource for growers in coming years, should they be required to cut crops again in response to seasonal conditions.

The advice comes from farm consultants, industry organisations and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) who are supporting growers with their decision making around management of 2018’s winter crops.

To this end, the GRDC has just published an updated Hay and Silage Fact Sheet on making the most of a failed winter crop.

GRDC Grower Relations Manager North Richard Holzknecht said the fact sheet highlights the importance of recording all crop measurements, yields, costs, feed quality and livestock outcomes as a future resource.

“The decision to cut crops for hay or silage is often one made during a stressful time,” Mr Holzknecht said.

“Growers who are able to record what action they took, the practices applied and the results achieved will have a vital guide if they are forced to cut crops again at some point in the future.

“These records could become an important resource or rule of thumb to help growers make similar decisions under pressure.”

The GRDC Hay and Silage Fact Sheet encourages growers to review these records at a later stage to determine what additional information could have improved or assisted their decision making.

Growers are reminded that market variability and volatility should be factored into future decision making when referring to benchmarks and returns recorded from previous seasons.

Other key points outlined in the fact sheet include:

  • Hay and silage can be made from failed crops to cover production costs and is sometimes a profitable venture;
  • The quality of canola and cereal hay and silage can vary enormously; quality testing is suggested before feeding to livestock;
  • Drought affected crops are often high in sugar and water-soluble carbohydrates, which can increase curing times and may increase the risk of haystack fires.
  • Hay and silage can be fed to all types of ruminant livestock as long as precautions are taken when introduced to their diet.
  • Silage generally produces better quality feed than hay.
  • Drought affected crops can also be tested for nitrate to avoid nitrate poisoning.
  • Nutrient export in hay and silage crops can be very high and needs to be considered when planning the following season’s crops.

Salvaging calculators are available to assist growers with crop management decisions. Cost and income calculators such as the one developed by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, can provide indications of the value of salvaging crops for fodder, grain or grazing.

To support growers and advisers with decision-making and for general support, the GRDC has developed a “Dealing With The Dry” web portal which contains links to useful information.

Growers and advisers dealing with tough seasonal conditions can also tune in to timely advice to guide crop management decisions, thanks to a short four-part specialist podcast series developed by the GRDC and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

The podcasts feature specialist researchers recorded as part of a joint GRDC NSW DPI Tough Season Questions Answered grower forum held during the recent Henty Machinery Field Days.

Source: GRDC

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