Grass harvested for silage

This Is Wiltshire: The folded rake goes to the next field, passing the forage harvester The folded rake goes to the next field, passing the forage harvester

aWaking up on a windy morning last weekend Richard and I decided that a trip to the south coast would be a good idea.

I know this took us out of Wiltshire, but we live in a land-locked county, although we must not forget it is part of the south west.

There was a very strong on shore wind blowing all day, but the sun shone and walking along the shore was most exhilarating.

The next day we studied the weather forecast several times and, after much discussion, the decision was made that we would begin making our silage on Wednesday, as a period of good weather was due to arrive.

Our barograph also showed that the air pressure was rising. On Wednesday, mowing began. By the end of the day most of the 120 acres of grass to be cut was lying on the ground, drying in the sunshine.

Earlier this year Richard and Ian had to decide how we would manage silage making, as our forage harvester was old and unreliable.

After doing some research into how we should operate in the future, we decided that we would use a contractor rather than invest in a new machine. This being so, on Thursday the contractor arrived with a forage harvester and a large rake, which would be used to row the grass up before it was collected.

The grass was left on the ground to wilt for about 24 hours, as it will then make for a better quality silage, producing very little effluent.

The grass this spring has grown quite oddly, with one new ley producing a very good crop, whilst in other fields the growth has been patchy due to the wet weather.

The first field the forage harvester arrived at had the heaviest crop, which made the process a little slower. The forage harvester picked up the grass, chopped it and delivered it into trailers.

During this process an inoculant of a lactobacillus bacteria was added. This bacteria occurs naturally in the crop, but adding some more helps ensure the correct fermentation of the sugars into lactic acid, dropping the pH to just below 5.

It is at this point the growth of spoilage bacteria will be stopped and the plant’s natural plant-degrading enzymes will be inhibited. Hopefully the result will be a stable silage, with minimum nutrient loss.

Three tractors and trailers, driven by Ian, Matt and Richard, were hauling the grass back to the clamp. Here the grass was tipped onto the floor of the silage barn, where Kevin was piling it into the plastic-lined clamp using his teleporter. While waiting for the loads to arrive, Kevin drove the teleporter up and down the growing wedge of grass to consolidate the crop.

This was to make sure that as much air as possible was driven out of the crop, as the correct fermentation only occurs under anaerobic conditions.

The 120 acres generally yielded well and were all in the clamp by Friday night and covered with a plastic sheet to keep the air out. Now all we have to do is wait – hopefully the quality of the silage will be good.

On Stowell Farm, Kevin has been spraying the peas, now with about six inches of growth, with a herbicide to get rid of blackgrass and a pesticide to kill weevils. There are more than 60,000 species of weevil, of which the pea weevil is one that eats the leaves, making U-shaped notches around the edges.

The adults are greyish/ brown, about four to five centimetres, and often difficult to spot. The larvae are creamy/white, feeding on the plants’ root nodules.

I am pleased to tell you that the milking cows have been turned out once again, although they are in at night.

This is just to be able to keep them in a routine, as sudden dietary changes are not good for their digestive systems.

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