6 tipsfor farmers making silage

Silage is a more energetically valuable feed for ruminants compared to hay. However, it is also more susceptible to spoilage, so its preparation, storage and feeding require more care and slightly different technologies.

We have already written about the importance and attractiveness of silage, as well as how to make beleage (packing silage first in a bale net wrap and then in stretch film). In this article, we have collected 6 tips to ensure that your efforts in preparing and storing this type of feedstuff will bring even greater results. Therefore, here are tips regarding all processes, including feeding.

Silage features

In feedstuff packaged first in a bale net wrap and then in stretch film, fermentation begins without access to air. As soon as oxygen disappears from the environment of lactic acid bacteria contained in feedstuff, they will begin to multiply rapidly. To do this, they need energy from sugars found in the juice and tissues of plants. Gradually, the population of lactic acid bacteria becomes extremely high, and their waste products lead to the accumulation of acid. This is why silage has such a low pH level.

When the bale is opened, oxygen will again be exposed, causing the feedstuff to gradually deteriorate. Even in the short time it takes to feed these feedstuff, the quality of the silage may decrease or it may become completely unsuitable for feeding to animals. This is why silage must be handled differently than hay, which is drier and less demanding.

The fermentation process of silage is similar to what happens directly in the stomach of a ruminant animal when it ingests feedstuff. But at the same time, the feedstuff ensiles on its own more “gently” than what happens in the digestive system of animals, so for your herd it can rather be called “pre-prepared”. This is why silage is so well suited for dairy and beef farming and is so loved by animals.

Pre-fermentation” of silage is a problem for the farmer as it leads to feedstuff instability. If we compare it with food for humans, then silage is like a ready-made and seasoned salad that cannot be stored for a long time without some special conditions. Like salad, silage becomes more unstable and susceptible to spoilage in hot summer temperatures. But in general, the problem of storage after access to oxygen is relevant in any season. It just takes a little longer to spoil in winter.

Attention! Do not leave silage “out in the air” for more than two days while feeding. And on hot days with temperatures from +60 ºF or +16 °C – no more than 1 day.

6 tips for farmers on handling silage

1. Prepare the right storage space. Any puncture of the beleyage can lead to damage to part of the feedstuff or the entire bale. Avoid areas near trees, lots of branches around, freshly cut areas with tough weeds, and do not place stretch wrap bales near burrows of rodents or other pests.

2. Check the moisture content of the feedstuff before packaging, it should be between 50 and 65 %. Also keep in mind that, for example, the forage at the ends of the field may be drier than at the beginning. Lack of sufficient moisture does not allow fungi to grow during storage, and therefore sufficient fermentation will not occur. Silage with a moisture content above 65% is much less common, but it is also undesirable because it deteriorates more quickly when exposed to air after opening the bale, and can also lead to spoilage by clostridia or botulism.

3. Do not use a spear to move the beliage! This will lead to punctures in the wrapping materials and rapid spoilage of the feedstuff (the entire bale or area). Manipulators can also damage the protective layer, so after transport, always check the integrity of the packaging of the bales.

4. Remove wrapper before feeding. Remove the stretch film in one piece. Also, remove any bale net wrap or twine from the entire bale before feeding the silage to animals.

5. Don’t force animals to eat waste or spoiled silage. Remove waste from feeders after feeding and wash them thoroughly. If animals eat spoiled silage, this can result in at a minimum a decrease in productivity, or at a maximum in animal health problems or even death. You need to find the optimal bale size based on your flock and feedstuff production before you start packing them.

6. Do not feed beleage silage before 4-6 weeks. It is important to first wait until the fermentation process is completely finished. Of course, in an emergency, you can give feedstuff that is not completely “ready”, but it is better to avoid this, since a partially ensiled product spoils faster than a fully prepared one.