Silage, as a form of preserving excess pasture growth during a big spring for future dry spells has been a feature of the Moore families operation at “Blink Bonnie”, Tarana for at least the past half century.
Peter Moore can recall when his father made pit silage during the 1970’s on their property which has been in his family since the mid-1880’s.
“We had some exceptional seasons and the best way to conserve a large amount of pasture and maintain its value was to put into a pit,” he said.
“In those days it was carted into the pit and rolled before being covered by soil.”
With the advent of the larger balers, Mr Moore moved to processing his spring pasture as silage made into large square bales and stored in pits.
“In my opinion, it is the only way to store drought fodder,” he said, by way of explaining why he continues to put silage away in a pit for the longterm.
“When you have to open up a pit, it is not a decision taken lightly, so having the pit silage is a great back-up to our drought feeding strategy.”
In my opinion, it is the only way to store drought fodderPeter Moore
Mr Moore has a decided preference for big square bales, because he finds them more straightforward when feeding out.
“This is our first year with round bales, and you can’t feed them out as easy because they lose their shape … if you get the big bales right you can feed it out in biscuits.”
Despite those few inconveniences, Mr Moore was however quick to point out the tremendous advantage of having pit silage.
“Especially now with the exorbitant transport costs of fodder, and the limited availability, having pit silage is saving a lot of money,” he said.
“But anything is good during a drought when you consider all the extra costs.”
During the current dry period, Mr Moore has been feeding mixed age ewes with the round bale silage, made from a pasture mix of cocksfoot and lucerne which was put into the silage pit in 2015.
“We had some exceptional silage made in 2003 from a lucerne paddock which included a lot of medic,” he said. “But we are now down to our last 115 bales which remain buried and will last for the next three weeks to a month.”
Make silage at peak nutrition for best results
There are four silage pits on “Blink Bonnie”, Tarana and because Peter Moore has suffered five bad springs in a row, he has not had the opportunity to add to his his fodder conservation, and feeding his stock though the current dry period has almost taken all that had been stored for many years.
Mr Moore operates the 750ha central tableland property with his wife Kaye, on which they normally graze 2500 Merino sheep, but are now to 1700 head.
“The last decent rain we had was March last year, when we recorded 100mm over 13 days, and during the past 12 months we have only had 325mm,” he said.
“With all of our fodder storage, including grain silos almost empty, I hope we get a decent spring this year to replenish our store.”
Mr Moore will certainly make as much pit silage as the season will allow this year.
“Having fodder in the ground gives me the confidence we are prepared for a drought, but it is tough going when we can’t seem to get a decent break,” he said.
“I also like silage for it’s ability to finish stock … it is very valuable fodder if made properly.”
And for Mr Moore, that really is the point in making silage.
“The secret to top silage is in the timing of the cutting,” he said.
“It should be cut at peak nutrition … not always easy but that is our aim.”
He further pointed out the need to maintain the condition of the pits, filling in sink holes to keep out air and water, both of which will spoil the pit silage.
“At least annually, you should check the soil covering,” he said.
Well made and properly stored pit silage is “more than just money in the bank”, according to Mr Moore. “I know at least I’ve got something up my sleeve,” he said.