This year short-term solutions are needed to maximise grazing and aid silage production.
The Forage for Profit team from Mole Valley Farmers offers some tips.
Spokesman Nicola Smith said: "The 2012 weather is having a continued impact on silage stocks. Obviously these dwindling stocks are being further impacted upon by the cold weather restricting grass growth. We hope we can provide some genuine and timely advice from our experts."
Plan to keep your stock on smaller acreage than normal, allowing more acres of second and third cuts to be made. Cutting an extra 20 acres twice will boost silage stocks by approximately 250 tonnes.
In order to keep stock on a tighter stocking rate, hard decisions might need to be made, such as not necessarily cutting bought-in feed in the short-term, this might include bought-in forages or blends and concentrate.
Grass sward assessment is key. Where leys are of good quality with a high proportion of responsive perennial rye grass, additional fertiliser than usual will be required this year. Many farmers delayed applications of fertiliser this year due to the extreme cold. Farmers should now apply this missed fertiliser mid-season.
Fertiliser quantity is important, but having a tailored recommendation based on soil reserves is vital, so soil sampling is crucial. But it should not be forgotten that, provided lime status and the major nutrients phosphate and potash are sufficient, nitrogen usage will drive higher yields. On the grazing fields, palatability is important especially mid to late season, where rejection increases. In order to keep stock "tighter", fertiliser products that contain some sodium and trace elements can play an important role.
Fertiliser timing: after each cut of silage, after-cut type fertiliser needs to be applied straight away. Every day missed re-applying fertiliser reduces yield by two per cent.
Once forage requirements for next winter have been calculated it is important to see if you are on schedule. Grass silage is the predominant source on most farms and a few recommendations such as not cutting too low will encourage a quick re-growth (a two-inch stubble is ideal). This year first-cut yields could well be lower on most farms. Reducing grass silage wastage is also important and this is where correct sheeting with a cling-film sheet and black over-cover sheets will reduce air ingress. The use of a well-proved additive will reduce silage dry matter losses by 8%, equivalent to 100 tonnes extra silage on a 1,250-tonne pit.
Due to the really wet conditions of 2012 a lot of grassland weeds were not sprayed last year, so the percentage of docks, nettles and thistles has increased. Ten per cent docks in the sward will reduce grass yields by 10%.
Big-bale silage can be a very useful tool in preserving any extra grazing grass, when grass suddenly takes on an extra spurt of growth which can't be utilised by grazing. An extra 100 tonnes of big bales could be very useful.
Consider other forage crops to supplement grass silage. Additional maize acreage is a worthwhile proposition after a first cut of silage or on poor grass leys. Maize is an extremely good feed for dairy cows or beef-fattening diets, and can be planted successfully in May. Stubble turnips, rape and kale can play an important part in supplying extra grazing and allowing more acres of grass to be silaged.