If your definition of a ‘good’ silage crop means ‘heavy’, it’s time to think again. Your pastures will thank you, and so will your cows.
Cutting pastures for silage at covers of > 4000kg DM/ha is still the most common cause of poor quality grass silage on New Zealand farms, because they contain a lot of dead leaves. Average silage ME in NZ is about 10 MJME/kg DM.
High pasture covers also damage future pasture persistence and production.
A sure sign of cutting too heavy a crop is a white or brown residual that takes a long time to re-grow. This is because all that cover has shaded out the replacement ryegrass daughter tillers that emerge every spring.
Daughter tillers need sunlight to survive; when pastures are allowed to get too long, the daughter tillers get shaded out and die. The same goes happens to clover.
So this spring, aim to cut silage as soon as pasture canopy closes, usually around 3-3.5 leaves per tiller and before dead plant matter starts to build up in the base.
This will ensure you make good quality, high ME silage > 11 MJME/kg DM. Your daughter tillers and clover will not get shaded out, and pastures will be back in the round sooner.