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What will be the cost of next year's first cut silage?

With nitrogen (N) prices where they are, what are the likely cash costs associated with producing a first cut next May? Might it be worthwhile to produce less silage in the spring, and buy more feed instead?

In reality, the cash cost will vary between farms, but with good levels of management, I calculate a cash cost of £390 per ha (or £71 per tonne dry matter (DM). This assumes a yield of 5.5 tonnes/ha DM, where the total N rate was 120 kg/ha (80 kg/ha coming from fertiliser and 40 kg/ha from slurry). N fertiliser is costed at £1.42/kg, and this accounts for 29 % of the total cash cost to produce this hypothetical first cut.

Because the lion’s share of the cost (i.e. machinery operations) are charged on a per ha basis rather than on yield, achieving good yields by optimising crop nutrition through efficient utilisation of manures and topping up with purchased N, is still the most cost-efficient option. Lower N rates will lower yields and protein %, therefore pushing up the cost of each tonne grown.

The replacement value of good quality silage with a mix of soya and barley at £368 and £170 per tonne respectively, would be £186 per tonne DM. So it costs £71 tonne to produce on-farm, but £186 to replace it. Increased fertiliser prices will push up the cost of homegrown feed next year but if the alternative is to replace forage with bought feed, then the latter option will cost more.

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