Preparation and storage of the feed stuff: hay and haylage

The main expensces on farms for the production of meat and milk are for feed stuff. But in the winter grazing is impossible. That is why it is so important to prepare feed stuff in the spring-autumn period and preserve the maximum of its nutritional value during storage. In this article we will talk about the features of harvesting and storing high-quality hay for cattle, as well as a little about ensiling in bales.

Harvesting high-quality hay

Hay is an easily digestible, habitual dry feed stuff for cattle that contains enough nutrients for fattening. To ensure its high quality, two important conditions must be observed: to cut at the maturity stage of the plant and to store it correctly.When hay is harvested at later stages, the total yield of the feed stuff is greater, but at the same time, compared to young vegetative feed stuff it contains less protein and energy and more fiber.

Of course, each farmer-technologist must make his own decision, taking into account the goals of his work and the state of the livestock. As a rule, the best time to cut grass for hay is when the plant is at maturity stage. When cutting legumes, cutting frequency is important. When it comes to alfalfa, the highest quality of the feed stuff is obtained when it cut from bud to blossom stages.

Humidity of the feed stuff immediately after cutting is often between 70 and 80 %.

At the same time, before pressing, it must be dried to 15-18% in order to prevent the possible appearance of mold at the storage stage.

The larger the bale, the more important it is to maintain the correct moisture level. The faster the initial drying of the cut plants is done, the less sugars and starches will be lost.

Thus, the amount of digestible nutrients in the hay will be higher.

It is also worth considering that cutting in the evening contributes to the fact that there will be more sugars and starches inside the plants than when cutting at lunchtime.Particular attention should be paid to the height of the cut of plants, the width of the swath, and if necessary, use raking and conditioning.

During the preparation of hay can be used:

  • desiccants (for legumes) to speed up drying;
  • preservatives (at humidity up to 35%) to prevent overheating and spoilage of hay during pressing.

Hay storage

Hay losses mainly occur during storage.At the same time, everything strongly depends on the preparation and initial condition of the bales, as well as on precipitation and storage.The outer layer of hay will be of lower quality due to eolation.

Depth of hay spoilage can range from 4 inches to 8 inches under high humidity conditions.

Therefore, the larger the bale, the less the layer that suffers from eolation: for a bale with a diameter of 6 pounds, the top layer is about 20% of the bale, and for a bale with diameters of 5 pounds, the same top layer is about 25%.

It should be remembered about the density given to the balers while forming round bales.

The bale net wrap by Polypak allows for the formation of large, dense, hard-core bales that retain more nutritional value than smaller soft-core bales.

The type of storage most often depends on economic factors as well as the needs of the farmer. By using dedicated bale storage facilities, potential storage losses can be reduced by two-thirds. Losses can be halved with a proper storage with a shelter in field.

The most problematic areas of net-wrapped bales in terms of feed stuff eolation are the top and sides, as well as ground contact. From the ground, humidity rises up into the bale and is “absorbed” by it. That is why good drainage of storage areas is important.

Storing bales outdoors on uncovered ground is the cheapest storage method, but of course there is more eolation loss. Large uncovered round bales should be stored end to end in a single row in a north-south orientation with space between bales to ensure good air circulation and drying.When stacking bales in a pyramid, the bottom bales are more exposed to the weather as rain flows down from the top rows.

Two-bale “mushroom” stacking, with the bottom bale on the edge and the top bale on its side, minimizes contact with the ground (especially the top bale).However, humidity from the top bale can accumulate in the bottom bale, greatly increasing spoilage.

Silage in bales

Haylage or silage in bales is compressed wet feed stuff, packed in wrapping film.

Due to the absence of air inside, fermentation occurs, ensuring the preservation of the maximum amount of nutrients.

To reduce packaging costs, the bales are first formed using a net bale wrap and only then they are packed in wrapping film.

Haylage bales should be packed as soon as possible after baling. The higher the delay time, the higher the chance of spoilage. Bales can be opened after 20 days and used after that for about a week.

The higher the density of the bales, the lower the pH and sugar content will be. This promotes proper fermentation as well as the stability of the sealed bale.