Modern silage clamp technologies can boost silage production by 25% per square meter and significantly reduce the carbon footprint in milk production. The focus on carbon footprint in milk procurement emphasizes efficient forage production.
Tim Brewer of Silostop Agri explains, "As milk purchasers scrutinize the carbon footprint, how you produce your forage becomes crucial. Storage, plastic use, and potential environmental harms are increasingly under the spotlight."
Tim adds, "Measures of milk production efficiency are evolving - it's becoming more about environmental impacts. The future price of milk will increasingly depend on this."
He highlights the importance of reducing key inputs and energy use. "Carbon footprint reduction is shaping food producers' environmental responsibilities for years to come," says Tim.
Efficient nitrogen management in grassland remains a priority, but significant reductions in the carbon footprint for milk production can also be achieved by improving forage conservation methods. Tim says, "In the context of modern high-efficiency silage clamps and lightweight, high oxygen barrier (HOB) films, it's hard to see how conventional silage films and big bale silage can fit into a more environmentally-focused future."
High Oxygen Barrier (HOB) film benefits
Research indicates that single-sheet HOB films outperform multiple sheets of traditional black plastic in productivity and environmental benefits. "A comprehensive study of over 50 pieces of work from Europe showed a 42% reduction in waste in clamps sealed with HOB films compared to standard black polyethylene film," Tim notes.
Further trials at the INRA Research Centre in France using Silostop HOB film demonstrated significant advantages. "Trials gave a total silage loss of just 7% compared to over 15% with traditional black polyethylene film," Tim explains.
The environmental advantages of HOB film are equally significant. "Covering ensiled forage maize with a thin HOB film reduces primary energy and greenhouse gas production significantly compared to covering clamps with two layers of standard film," Tim adds.
Big bale concerns
Will Wilson of ARK Agri emphasizes that efficient use of HOB films can drastically reduce costs and carbon footprint compared to big bales. "Using HOB films can reduce plastic use by 80% and the carbon footprint of each tonne of silage by 95%," he states.
He contrasts the plastic use in wrapped bales with clamped silage using HOB film. "For 1000 tonnes of silage, big bales require approximately 1540kg of plastic per year. In comparison, a clamped situation with HOB film and covers uses just 90kg," Will explains.
There are also cost benefits. "The plastic for big bales costs £4425/year, whereas the HOB film and covers for the clamp cost about £870 for 1000 tonnes of silage."
High efficiency clamp construction
Investing in a modern silage clamp is more advantageous than relying on big bales. Will explains, "A modern ARK sloping wall clamp allows for better compaction of forage material than conventional designs. This leads to better feed quality and more material stored per square meter."
The unique 23-degree slanting walls of the ARK clamp facilitate more efficient loading and compaction. "For any given footprint, an ARK sloping wall clamp can contain 10 – 15% more material than a conventional vertical wall design," Will adds.
The use of 'MuckAway' in clamp construction offers additional benefits. "It's a construction company's worst nightmare to dispose of this material, but it's a silage clamp builder's dream," Will remarks.
Combining Technologies for Optimal Efficiency
Will believes in the potential of combining these technologies. "Reducing silage waste from 15% to 5% using HOB films is easily achievable. It's a simple switch that delivers considerable benefits," he says.
He concludes, "In a carbon-focused future, such changes might be essential for continuing as a trading milk production business."