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  • Writer's pictureKPM Partners

The BIO-SIL® Guide to Better Bale Silage

Big bale silage has been popular with livestock for many years. Silage in a handy pack size that can be made on a “field to field” basis at far lower capital cost compared to clamp silage. It is no surprise estimates suggest two thirds of UK farmers produce at least some bale silage, even those with a clamp. Bite sized bales are first class for convenience but, when it comes to silage quality, bales are often considered as second class to clamp silage. That’s not a fair portrayal as baled forage has the potential to produce the best of all silage. So here are some tips to ensure every one of your silage bales is your best silage.

In essence all great silage needs great quality forage; so growing a good crop, mowing and wilting to the target dry matter are key silage making skills for bale and clamp silage. Harvesting grass at the target dry matter – typically 30% - is always critical but the consequences of getting it wrong are even more serious in bale silage. Effluent produced during fermentation can’t (or should be able to) escape in a sealed bale and will lead to spoiling on the bottom of the bale.

· Set the cutting height to avoid soil contamination and the old dead leaves at the base of the plants.

· Cut in early afternoon if possible to maximise sugar content.

· Spread the crop to speed wilting

· Row up into a “square” swath at the target dry matter of 30%

· Ensure the baler has sharp chopper knives and set the chop length – usually to the shortest possible but 50mm should be the maximum advised.

Chop length is the biggest difference between good bale and clamp silage. For a 30% DM crop in a clamp the chop length should be around 20-25mm but in a bale 40-45mm would be acceptable. A short chop length is key to clamp silage quality to protect against oxygen spoiling once the clamp is opened. This is not an issue for bale silage so a longer chop length is not so detrimental. What is important is the fermentation process and correct chop length gives better bale density and allows bacteria to access the crops cells to produce the vital lactic acid.

Once the crop is chopped and baled it needs to be wrapped as soon as possible. So combination baler-wrappers are the ideal silage production machines. The film and wrap manufacturers have guidance and advice on product choice and layering up but in general, more is better – with six layers as a minimum. Damage to the wrap will compromise the seal leading to wastage and losses. Handle bales with care and protect against vermin attack from both the four legged, long tail type and those black winged, sharp beaked, blighters that love to spoil all your hard work.

So that should produce a great bale of silage, but we all know there are good bales and not such good bales so why is that and how can you make sure they are all great bales?

It’s all down to the battle of the bugs that is going on in silage once it’s sealed. The freshly cut forage is a massive “all you can eat buffet” for the bacteria, yeasts and moulds that have been harvested along with the crop. For good silage you need the lactobacillus plantarum to win the battle. Until they do, the “undesirables” will be feasting on the forage intended for your livestock. The crop that’s harvested contains varying populations of all these guys; the headland swath will differ from the body of the field just as the drier areas will vary from the wet bits. In a silage clamp the lactic acid bacteria will march on from battle to battle until the war is won. In bale silage you have a hundred sealed battles rather than one massive war and there will be cases where the good guys don’t win. By adding the correct bacterial inoculant you ensure that each and every bale has the right bacteria to win the fight and protect the forage as great silage. BIO-SIL® contains two specially selected strains of lactobacillus plantarum bacteria that are proven and certified by Germanys DLG to produce rapid pH drop, reduced dry matter loss, reduced protein loss leading to increased milk yields and liveweight gains. So to ensure that great forage becomes great silage.

· Set the baler density and chop length to suit crop dry matter

· Apply dissolved BIO-SIL® silage inoculant at 1 litre per tonne

· Wrap with at least six layers of film

· Handle bales with care to avoid any wrap damage

· Store and protect from vermin attack

The experts at BIO-SIL® are able to help and advise with inoculant applicators if your baler or contractor doesn’t currently have an inoculant option. It’s time to stop seeing baled forage as second class silage and instead see it for what it really is – the opportunity to harvest, inoculate, chop, consolidate and seal faster than any other type of silage to lock in the nutrients.


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