Seven Top Tips for Whole-Crop and Maize Silage

Tuesday 6 September 2016

1. Plan ahead
Decide when and how you are going to harvest and ensile the crop, likely yield, size of silo required, how you will prepare the silo, what equipment will be needed, and who is going to help throughout the harvest. Book your contractor and discuss the details together well in advance of harvest.

2. Prepare adequately
Make sure your clamp is clean, dry and the sidewalls 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 film to cover existing silage.

3. Harvest at the correct stage
Aim to harvest whole-crop cereals at 35 to 45% dry matter and maize at 30 to 35% whole-plant dry matter. Do not harvest 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 to avoid mouldy stems and soil contamination. 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 out in summer.

4. Fill in thin layers
Fill the silo in thin layers, taking time to compact the crop 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 money on plastic film if the top layer is full of oxygen to start with!

5. Cover with Silostop
Cover the silo as quickly as possible with Silostop oxygen barrier film. If harvesting over more than one day, cover the silo overnight. Ideally, the film should be laid loosely, allowing it to cling to the top surface. A robust protective cover should then be applied to protect the film from vermin, wind, birds and ultra-violet light. Edges and seams should be sealed and weighted with gravel bags.

6. Feed-out rapidly
Keep the exposed silo feed-out face as smooth as possible with no loose material left lying around. Aim to remove 30 cm (one foot) of silage from the exposed face daily during the feed-out period. This will minimize the amount of silage exposed to the air and reduce the risk of heating and aerobic spoilage.

7. Stay safe
Don’t over-fill the silo. If the clamp is full and more crop has yet to be harvested, make an additional pile with the excess crop. Make sure the sides of unwalled clamps are no steeper than a 1 to 3 slope. Avoid overhangs when feeding out and don’t stand or walk anywhere near the silage face, especially the top edge, which can be highly unstable. Stand clear of unloading equipment when in use.

 Mike Wilkinson