Forage Competition

The major competition within the Society has always been the silage competition which was held for the first time in 1973-74 and won by M Milligan, Culvennan. Without any doubt, the competition has done much to improve silage quality throughout the south west of Scotland. In particular, it was highly rewarding in 1984-85 when the Scottish and UK National Silage Championship was won by J & W Carson, Conchieton.

In the Greensward Issue of 1973 it was suggested there should be a silage competition. The following is a extract from that edition.

J. N. Walson
Hannah Research Institute. Ayr
South West Scotland Grassland Society

Why have I asked this question? The answer is because I think we should have a competition in South West Scotland and because I judged the silage competition of the Cumberland and Westmorland Grassland Society last winter. Obviously members enter any competition in the hope of winning. but by entering this competition they stimulate interest in the subject. and this interest and exchange of ideas. results in an improvement in the silage being made.

The competition
Perhaps a few remarks on how the competition in Cumberland and Westmorland was organised will be of interest to members. At the start of the winter, entry forms were sent to all member. Oncc these were returned. the sampling of the silage was carried out by a College Officier, probably accompanied by a Committee Member of the Grassland Society. Thc silage samples were then analysed and the results returned to the Secretary of the Society. A system of scoring based on analysis was drawn up and by this method the top five or six entries were selected. The scoring was based on silage dry matter. % crude protein. pH and D value.
Up to this point there were six silage samples assessed on chemical analysis only. These results were given to a judge from outside the area who was asked to visit each farm and make a visual assessment of the silage taking account of such things as leafiness, fermentation and absence of waste. The marks he awarded were added to the marks obtained from analysis and so
the winner was selected. At this point I feel I should say that in my opinion towers and clamps should be judged in two, separate classes.

The meeting
To make known the winner. an evening meeting was held at which over 50 members turned up: perhaps because there was a bar at the back of the hall ! The chemist responsible for the analysis of the silage and the outside judge were seated at the top of the hall. with the Society Chairman, who called on the latter to comment on the top three silages, in reverse order of merit. A
bit like judging Miss World although not as interesting ! As well as discussing the silage quality the judge was asked to comment on the fitness of the cows. any novel ideas, or general matters of interest to members, for example the use of additives, length of chop etc. The meeting was then open to questions thrown at both judges. This proved to be a very lively affair and much information was passed in both directions.
By the obvious keenness of members present. it was clear that the Cumberland and Westmorland Grassland Society certainly consider their silage competition worthwhile and I hope our Society, after its first competition, feels likewise.

The following year the first silage competition was held. Here is the report from the Greensward Magazine of 1974

S.W.S.G.S. meeting held 2lst February, 1974, at Ernespie Hotel,
Castle Douglas
The Silage Competition:

A tremendous crowd attended this meeting at which the result of our society’s first silage making competition was announced. Before dealing with the events of the night it is worth recording the progress of the competition itself.
The decision to hold a competition was taken by the committee on 8th February 1973. Over 12 months previously, John Watson. Farm Manager of the Hannah Research Institute and Dr. Malcolm Castle of the institutes’ Applied Studies Department were responsible for urging the committee into this venture. John had been judging a silage competition at ihe Cumberland and Westmorland Grassland Society and was keen that we in the S.W.
of Scotland should “Have a Go:· lt is universally accepted that high quality conserved grass has an extremely important part to play in North West Britain and there is an impression that farmers in the S.W. area are not too good at either silage or hay making. This competition should do a lot to lead farmers into a better product.
Rules and entry forms were sent out to farmers during early summer 1973.

The rules were as follows:-

  1. Entry is open to farmers operating in the South West of Scotland.
  2. There will be separate classes for Tower Silage and Clamp Silage.
  3. Competitors will be allowed to submit one or two entries
    provided each is accompanied by the entry fee of £4.00.
  4. The entry fee will cover the cost of sampling the silo and
    chemical analyses and preparation of an advisory report under
    the scheme operated by the West of Scotland Agricultural College.
    Completed entry forms together with a cheque for £4.00 (1 entry)
    or £8.00 (2 entries) should be sent to the Secretary, South West
    Scotland Grassland Society, Auchincruive, Ayr KA6 5HW. The
    cheque should be made payable to the “South West Scotland
    Grassland Society.” Entries should be in the secretary’s hands
    by 30th September, 1973.
  5. The choice of sample will be left to the official sampler who will
    adopt the normal procedure to establish the value of the silage
    in a silo. Sampling will take place before 31st December, 1973, the
    preferred date to be stated in the entry form.
  6. A copy of the analysis and the advisory report will be sent to the
    secretary of the Society for the use of the competition judges.
    The silage sample will be judged on the basis of the schedule
    shown below.
  7. The 12 best entries of clamp silage and the 6 best entries of
    tower silage judged on the basis of the analysis will form a short
    leet for judgement on the farm during January-March, 1974 by
    guest judges along with a farmer member of the committee.
  8. This second judging will be based on the appearance and smell
    of the silage and on the amount of waste. The points awarded
    for analysis and farm judgement will be added together to decide
    the 4 best clamp silages and the 2 best tower silages.
  9. These will be awarded prizes and certificates according to the

Clamp Silage Tower Silage

1st £12 1st £12

2nd £8 2nd £8

3rd £4

4th £2

10. The farmer with the best silage will be presented with the Society’s trophy which he will hold for 1 year and a miniature
replica which he will retain.

These rules were drawn up by a small committee of Dr Castle and John Watson of the Hannah and Dr Harkess, Alistair Campbell and I V. Hunt of the College. The marks allocation is a tricky business and a real expert. R. H. Alexander of the College Chemistry Division was responsible. The emphasis in the marking allocation lies with quality especially the “.,digestibility. 50 out of the total of 140 marks going to this single feature. Full mark tables are not shown but it is easy to calculate.Thc proportions of marks to be given to the intermediate figures.For example, a silage with DM of 17 would get 6 marks. Experience may suggest changes in the rules and marking system. but at the moment the only change is likely to be in the numbers of farms put on the short leet. It happened that there were only 3 entries in the Tower silage class but had there been a fuller entry the judges inspection might have necessitated a trip round 18 farms. As it was the short leet was just 13 farms. The guest judge. Mr David Marshall of High Lea. Humbie. East Lothian. thought that a higher proportion of total marks should have been left to the inspection and less to the chemical analysis instead of the 40 and 100 actually allocated. This will be considered by the committee in preparation for next year’s competition.

39 entries were received of which 3 were tower silages. Sampling took a long time since it was left to the farmer to stale when he would prefer the samples to be collected. The last of the samples was taken in mid-December.
By that time most of the analyses were completed but the final batch including entries A32T. A34a. D/1 b, and D37T were caught by the

3-day electricity restrictions. The method for measuring digestibility takes 5 days to complete and the College was put on 3 day use of electricity until mid-February. Fortunately. Ron Alexander arrived back from Spain where
he had been setting up laboratory techniques for the Spanish
Government Agricultural Advisory Service. He solved the difficulty by using a small paraffin-motored generator and the full analyses were available for the selection of the short leet.
Farmers· names are not -given in the list but they are given for the short leeted farms which went forward for inspection by Mr David Marshall and his party.