Many famers are losing more than 20% of the nutritional value of their silage by failing to follow some basic steps. This can translate to £1,000s off the bottom line, as substitute feeds must be purchased to supplement lost silage nutrients. Although technologies such as improved inoculants and Silostop Ultimate Oxygen Barrier Film will help to preserve good silage, they can’t make bad silage good!
Decide when and how you are going to harvest and ensile the crop, the likely yield, size of silo required, what equipment will be needed, and who is going to do the work at each stage of the harvesting and ensiling operation.
Make sure your clamp is clean, dry and the sidewalls are covered with Silostop Wall Film. If adding to existing silage, ensure that any deteriorated silage is discarded before adding the new crop. Check that the top cover is undamaged. If necessary, use a new layer of plastic.
Aim to harvest grass at 25 to 30% dry matter and maize at 30 to 35% whole-plant dry matter. Do not harvest maize too early. Chop at a uniform length of cut. Ensure the knives on the chopper are kept sharp. If conditions are wet or the crop is mature, raise cutting height. Add an inoculant designed to increase aerobic stability if feed-out rate is likely to be slow or if the silage is to be fed in summer.
Take time to compact the crop in thin layers as much as possible, especially at the end of filling. The more oxygen you squeeze out, the better the silage will be. There’s no point in spending extra on Silostop Ultimate Oxygen Barrier Film if the top layer is full of oxygen to start with!
Cover the filled silo as quickly as possible with Silostop film. The film should be laid gently and loosely over the top of the silo, allowing it to cling to the surface. A robust protective cover, such as Silostop Open Net or Silostop Anti-UV Cover, should then be applied to protect the film from vermin, wind, birds and UV light. Edges and seams should be sealed and weighted with Silostop Gravelbags. Used car tyres should be avoided.
Keep a smooth feed-out face. Aim to remove an average of 30 cm (one foot) of silage from the exposed face daily. This will minimize the amount of silage exposed to the air and reduce the risk of heating during feed-out. Avoid leaving loose silage at the base of the silage face. Using Silomats above the face will provide a safe method to prevent air from entering at the face and aid maintained compaction.
Don’t over-fill the silo. If the clamp is full and more is to still be harvested, make a small additional clamp from the excess crop. Make sure the sides of an unwalled clamp are no steeper than a 1 to 3 slope. Avoid overhangs when feeding out and don’t stand or walk near the exposed silage face. Stand clear of unloading equipment, such as a defacer, when it is in use.
This is a very simple guide to silage making basics - if you would like further advice on optimising your silage quality, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Download PDF version