Mixed outlook for silage, hay

Matthew Manks raking silage at a Loch property managed by Shane Manks, Manks Rural Contrors. Mr Manks said they managed to bale the silage within 36 hours of it being cut.GIPPSLAND farmers have welcomed the rain throughout the year, with full dams and an abundance of grass, however there is a mixed outlook for this year’s silage and hay harvest.

While South and West Gippsland farmers and contractors are looking at lengthy delays in cutting and baling silage, harvest has been in full swing in the region’s South East.

With close to 60 millimetres recorded across areas of South Gippsland a fortnight ago, and followed by more rain over the weekend, locals have forecast a similar outlook to last year.

Loch contractor Shane Manks, Manks Rural Contractors, said silage harvest has been pushed back by three weeks.

Mr Manks made the most of three clear days last week, although he battled drizzle.

And while machinery sits idle in the west of the region, Yarram contractor Wayne Bowden, Bowden Agricultural Contractors, has been on the silage trail for weeks.

“It’s been on and off for about a month and I’d expect we’ll be going for another two weeks,” he said.

Mr Bowden said yield and quality had been affected by the timing of rain events and wet winter, and expected to cut about half the amount of silage as usual

“We’re going to be doing a lot less silage than we normally do,” he said.

“Although the season looks good, we’ve seen a lot of pugging.”

Mr Bowden said west of Yarram and towards the hills remained wet, however Yarram itself and further east dried out too early.

“It dried out about a month ago, and then we got some rain,” he said. “If we hadn’t got that rain, we would have been screaming for it.

“Consequently, it has made silage later and the grass has run to head.”

Quality has suffered across the region, as pasture that should have been cut for silage has been delayed.

“Everyone thought we were in for a good season. We were expecting better quality and fewer bales,” Mr Manks said. “But now it looks like the other way around.”

Now, pasture that looked set for quality silage looks more likely to be cut for hay.

However Mr Bowden, who has been contracting from Woodleigh across to Welshpool for more than 20 years, remains positive.

“On average the country looks better than it has in 15 years,” he said.

“We’re a long way ahead where we’ve been, there’s just been a few complications along the way.

“It has been a bit tougher than people thought it would be, but a lot of people have forgotten what it’s like when it’s wet. We’ve changed how we do things.”

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