Silostop’s Global Technical Manager, Will Wilson, presented our ‘Best Practice Guide to Silage Covering’ at the annual ADBA Silage Clamp Management day.
Five speakers in total presented on a range of topics, including The Legal Elements of Feedstock Contracts (Jonathon Crowley, Ashford’s LLP), The Science of Silaging (Mandy Mason, Kelvin Cave), Environment Challenges (Alan Jones, Environment Agency), Filling and Covering the clamp (Will Wilson, Silostop) and Feedstock Quality Monitoring (Melanie Hecht Schaumann Bioenergy).
We summarised a few key points from the presentations that you may find interesting.
Silage waste in poorly managed and covered silage clamps is hard to measure, and research varies, but it was agreed that Dry Matter (DM) losses across most feedstocks could equal 20% - 25%.
When measured against today’s prices, these losses can run into many thousands of pounds for an individual operator and millions in losses across the industry.
Dry Matter is the element of silage that is not water and is where you find the energy you need for your AD plant to produce gas.
Silage clamp losses can be visible (black areas of wet hot, and smelly silage) and invisible, which may only be measured by monitoring temperatures or regular sampling and analysis by independent industry experts and laboratories.
The key to reducing waste is how you design and sheet your silage clamp, how you fill and compact the forage in your clamp, and finally, how you empty your clamp. We will cover these topics in future blog posts.
A further part of the jigsaw is the use of additives to treat the silage. The technology is constantly changing, and as new products are developed specifically for the AD market, operators may see significant benefits by investing in additives.
Sheeting and covering the clamp remains a challenge and a key to reducing the visible surface waste on clamps. High Oxygen Barrier (HOB) silage films, sidewall sheets, heavy netting and gravel bags remain essential to achieving the best possible silage.
Silage clamp design is also an area that needs careful thought because many clamps are overfilled. A silage clamp with too much silage is harder to compact, harder to sheet and cover, and makes feeding out more difficult and dangerous, which all leads to more waste.
Feedstock contracts are becoming increasingly important as the scale and value of feedstocks increase. AD plant owners and funders want to look more professional (and clarify risks) by having a comprehensive written agreement in place.
When producing a feedstock contract, professional advice must be sought from a legal firm with specific knowledge of the sector.
All parties must agree to the terms of the contract, focusing on how feedstock quality is measured going in and out of the clamp. The contract must also define who is responsible or liable for external factors surrounding silage storage, for example, its environmental impact.
Now more than ever, understanding how the increasing costs of inputs, for example, a contractor’s fuel, are monitored and passed on should be part of the contract to ensure a long-term, profitable partnership.
The Environment Agency is increasingly aware of the environmental challenges that poorly managed silage storage creates. The most significant risk is the pollution of waterways from leachate (liquid leaving a silage clamp) that is not handled correctly.
Key areas include the lack of SSAFO compliance in clamps, a critical part of which is the outer drain behind a panel, overloaded walls, inadequate drainage capacity and porous silage clamp bases.
The Environment Agency wants to improve silage storage quality in the UK by liaising with operators at the planning stage to ensure designs adhere to the SSAFO regulations.
The best way for this to happen is to communicate your plans with your local Environment Agency team as early as possible using the form WQ4, which is an excellent template for the information they will gather for your project.
Using temporary stores like Ag Bags or field clamps will also have to follow the SSAFO requirements. However, these rules are different to those for permanent clamps.
The Environment Agency has also recently established a team of 50 new advisors to work across the country to help farmers understand their expectations for the future. The goal of the EA is to carry out 1,500 farm visits annually, which could also include on-farm AD plants not previously reviewed, so there will be increased attention on all aspects of environmental compliance.
We would recommend getting in touch with ADBA directly for the details of the presenters and for more information on their topics. Adbioresources
The above information was taken from notes during the event, and any errors or omissions will gladly be corrected.