McHale Baled Silage Guide


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McHale Baled Silage Guide

  1. 1. Baled Silage Guide
  2. 2. Contents IntroductionBenefits of big bale silage 3 We hope this baled silage guide will enable youAttention to detail is the to make more cost effective use of thiskey to success 4 environmentally friendly system. As you can see from the list of contributors we have consultedQuality square baled silage some of the world’s leading experts on forageor Haylage 11 production. The table of contents lists areas of interest to farm contractors and livestock producers so weResearch on conserved hope the information assembled here will enableforage crops for ponies 14 you to minimise costs, make better quality silage and significantly reduce storage losses.High dry matter legume An executive summary gives you a brief resumecrops for baled silage 18 of the areas where farmers, agri contractors and their staff should focus their attention in order to maintain forage quality and make the best use ofWrapping alternative their machinery and labour.forage crops 22 In addition we hope the research findings and practical tips supplied will help you to improvePlanning for quality and safety and on farm performance in what arecost effective silage 24 challenging times for farm families everywhere. We look forward to receiving your comments on this guide and any recommendations you mayOptimising feeding values 27 have on the McHale range of forage machinery. As you know McHale Engineering manufactures theAssessing feed stocks 29 award winning Fusion integrated baler wrapper. Their current product range also includes trailedWrapper sets it up 32 and linkage round and square balewrappers, a mini balewrapper, round and square bale handlers and a bale splitter. This machinery has been designedDiagnostic guide for ease of operation and optimum output.for balewrapping 35 Finally on behalf of the sponsors-McHale Engineering may we take this opportunity to wish McHale Bale Silage Guide you every success during the year with your Designed by IFPMedia machinery operations, forage conservation and 31 Deansgrange Rd, farming business. Blackrock, Co. DublinPage 2
  3. 3. The benefits of big bale silage The quality of silage made in big bales can be In-store losses from big bale and equally as good as clamp and much better conventional silage (G/Kg grass Dry than hay. Matter ensiled) Losses in storage due to aerobic spoilage are Source Wrapped Conventional much lower in baled silage than in clamp (ADAS/DANI trials) McCullogh (1981) ND 290 Stewart & Kennedy (1982) ND 300 The large capital investment required for Weddell& Mackie (1987) 135 ND clamp storage is not needed for big bales, Kennedy (1987) 30 240 making the system cheaper than clamp. 110 200 Big bales can be stored almost anywhere so 120 330 long as they are stacked more than 10 metres Mean 99 272 from any watercourse or drain into which effluent ND = not could enter (e.g. close to the place of feeding) determined Average 9.9% 27.2 Bales can be fed according to nutritional value making the best use of available forage stocks. Better quality silage can be made resulting in Bales surplus to requirements can be sold as a increased feed intakes, improved feed cash crop providing an extra source of income. conversion and higher daily liveweight gains in Chopped bales are 8-12% heavier than livestock. conventional round bales, save on twine, Easier handling and feeding systems-e.g. bale netwrap and stretch film, take up less storage choppers, unrollers and diet feeders make the space and are easier to feed out. system more attractive to the livestock farmer.Light green or white film reflects sunlight so bales remain cool and storage life is extended. Page 3
  4. 4. Attention to detail is thekey to success Film wrap must not be damaged because air High dry matter (DM) silage is less entry will cause extensive damage e.g. mouldy efficiently used by stock and significant silage. losses can occur during the wilting process. Costs are determined by the number of bales Wilt quickly as this reduces the risk of poor weather produced. This is influenced by crop yield, and mould growth. The drying rate is determined by wilting and baling. the thickness of grass on the ground Wilting eliminates the need for an additive, Spread and ted on 2 or more occasions for reduces the number/weight of bales and fast wilting. Avoid creating lumpy swaths. A minimises effluent production. slow forward speeds also help.Dermot Forristal is just 70 microns compared to 200 micronsTeagasc, Crops Research for a normal clamp cover.Centre, Oak Park - The density of silage within the bales is lessIntroduction than in pit silage and bales are usually handledBaled silage is made on many intensive and after wrapping.extensive farms that conserve silage however it These factors make it imperative that the film wrapdiffers from conventional silage in many ways: is not damaged because air entry will cause a lot of- Bales have 6 to 8 times more silage in contact damage. Attention to detail is necessary to ensure with the polythene film. reliable and cost effective forage conservation.- More than half of the silage is within 200 mm (8”) of the surface. Key areas- The thickness of the polythene film on the bale In most situations, cost reduction and mould Preparing an even swath makes baling easier and helps to improve bale shape.Page 4
  5. 5. prevention are key targets for this system. As that moisture can get away from the swath. Ifregards forage quality the same principles that conditioned grass is heaped in a narrow swathdetermine quality/feed value in conventional silage occupying just 30% of the original cut area (e.g. aapply to baled silage. The main factor that influences 1m wide swath after a 3.2m mower), most of thecosts is the number of bales produced per swath cannot dry.acre/hectare. This is influenced by crop yield, wilting Wilting should be fast. A target of one night onand baling. Mould requires oxygen or air to grow. If the ground should be set. This will reduce wiltingair enters, the ease with which it moves through the losses and lessen the risk of rain damage. It maysilage will influence the level of spoilage caused. also help to reduce microbial development within the swath that could initiate mould growth.Wilting is an essential part of the baled To achieve a fast wilt, it is necessary to spread the grass assilage system, as it: thinly as possible on the ground. With light crops (e.g. 2nd eliminates the need for a preservative/additive cut), a mower/conditioner with its swath doors set wide reduces the number of bales/hectare may be adequate. For heavy crops, mowers capable of reduces/eliminates effluent and makes bales lighter achieving 80-100% ground cover (i.e. with spreadingGrass should be wilted to a minimum of 25% dry attachments) may be adequate, provided the grass is cutmatter (DM), however a greater reduction in bale dry and weather conditions are good. Otherwise separatenumber and costs will be achieved by wilting to tedding will be necessary to get a fast wilt.35% DM. However high DM silage is usually lessefficiently used by the animal and significant Practical wilting optionslosses can occur during the wilting process. 1) Where yields are light and drying conditions areThe objective is to wilt as quickly as possible and good, a mower conditioner with the swath doorsreduce the risk of poor weather. The most open to give 60%+ ground cover may beimportant factor determining the drying rate is the acceptable. The grass should be cut dry however.thickness of grass on the ground – a thin layer of 2) Over the top tedders can be used to speed upgrass will dry out much more quickly. the drying of grass in mower swaths. ThereThe degree of spreading or % ground cover performance is still dependent on the level ofachieved after mowing or spreading/tedding is ground cover achieved.therefore critical. 3) In more ‘normal’ conditions, a mowerConditioning the grass, by abrading the stems and conditioner with a spreading hood could beleaves, will result in more rapid moisture loss only if used to give 90-100% ground cover. TheTable 1: Effect of swath treatment on drying rate. % % Dry Matter ground Day 1 Day 1 Day 1 .Day 2. cover 9 a.m. 2 p.m. 5 p.m 2 p.mDouble Swath M/conditioner 23 16.0 18.1 16.8 17.9Standard M/ conditioner 55 16.0 19.5 20.6 22.4Wide M/ conditioner 75 16.0 22.2 24.5 30.4Spreading/Tedding 100 16.0 24.0 28.9 38.7 Page 5
  6. 6. grass will need to be raked separately. The handled, particularly if insufficient net is grass should be dry when cutting. applied.4) The fastest wilting option is to spread and ted on two or more occasions with a tedder. Care Net wrapped bales are also easier to must be exercised to avoid creating lumpy strip at feeding time. swaths. Early cutting facilitates this as lower The aim must be to pack as much DM into the yielding crops are easier to spread. Slow bale as possible. The target should be a minimum forward speeds will also help. of 200 kg of DM per bale. At 35% DM, this would require a bale weight of 570 kg. SwathAdvice on baling formation, grass type, baler type and setting, and speed all influence the level of density achieved.Advice on baling High DM bales are more prone to mould Net wrap speeds up baling and makes development. The physical structure of the grass wrapping easier. Heavier bales can become often allows easier air movement within the bale misshapen if insufficient net is applied. and the less acidic environment does little to Target a minimum of 200 kg of DM per bale. inhibit mould growth. More film should be applied At 35% DM, this would require a bale weight to high DM bales and film damage must be of 570 kg. avoided. Swath formation, grass type, baler type and Conventional chopping with 12 to 14 knives will setting and speed all influence the level of typically increase bale density by 8-12%. Newer density achieved. balers, with more than 20 knives allow greater Conventional chopping with 12 to 14 knives densities to be achieved. In addition to reducing will typically increase bale density by 8-12%. costs, greater densities should result in a more restricted environment for air movement within the bales. The only concern with high-density bales, onThe objective is to produce well-packed, farms with limited tractor lifting capacity, isevenly-shaped bales. Good swath presentation their heavy weight. However, wilting to 30%+will help this and therefore a conflict between dry matter should prevent this being a problem.optimum wilting and good baling sometimesoccurs. The use of net wrap speeds up baling Wrappingand makes certain types of bale easier to wrap, Shortage of labour has made combined balingbut heavier bales can become misshapen when and wrapping operations attractive, as only one tractor and labour unit are required. The mostGrass Sample Dry Matter popular McHale combination or ‘combi’ unit is(ball of grass) Content where an in-line wrapper is trailed behind the baler. It automatically picks up, wraps andIf juice drips while squeezing Less than 25%No Juice - ball retains shape unloads the wrapped bale.when released 25-35% Trailed combination units can be difficult to useBall unfolds when released More than 35% in hilly areas or awkward shaped fields. With thisPage 6
  7. 7. system the saving in labour is significant for the The drop table/mat should lower the balecontractor. In areas where bird damage is a gently to the ground.problem, wrapping in the field can result in Certain types of stubble can puncture the balesevere bird damage immediately after wrapping. in very sunny, dry conditions. Gentle droppingResearch has shown that the practice of moving of the bale should help to minimize this, asthe bales to a nearby, long-grass area (e.g. would dropping on damp ground from whereadjacent grazed paddock) reduces the risk. the swath was lifted. Extra film (6 layers) would also protect the bale. Wrapping at the storageBaling site or a nearby grazing paddock, would also Prepare a uniform box shaped swath, which eliminate stubble damage. will fit the baler pick-up width. To avoid soil contamination don’t set the mower or pick up reel to low. Drive the baler at a steady speed and produce Handling Damage bales of even, cylindrical shape. The wrapper table, drop table/ mat and the Soft bales are difficult to wrap properly and stubble are all potential sources of damage. may not ensile successfully. The drop table/mat should lower the bale Misshapen bales do not rotate evenly on the gently to the ground. wrapper and to ensure a minimum coverage with Stubble can puncture the film in sunny, dry conditions. Wrapping at the storage site or a 4 layers of film, extra revolutions may be required. nearby paddock, will eliminate stubble Do not wrap bales that have been tied or damage. netted with any material which may cause a Handle wet/soft bales immediately after chemical reaction with polythene (e.g. wrapping. Heavy bales are more prone to impregnated sisal twine). damage if transported long distances. Some chemicals- fertilisers, sulphuric acid, Hydraulic handlers can handle wide/ sagged herbicides, mineral oils etc. can accelerate film bales and are essential for stacking or degradation. Film should not be allowed to loading bales- they need careful and skillful come into contact with these materials. operation. Careful manoeuvring when handling the baleBale handling – How to avoid damage is essential. An appropriate speed should be used for safety and other reasons.Incorrect handling will damage the silage film, Slow transport often results in the bales leftresulting in aerobic spoilage and mould growth. overnight in the field where they are prone toMould reduces the value of silage and can make bird attack, become misshapen and difficultit a dangerous feed. to handle. Self-loading multi-bale transporters canWrapper and stubble damage speed up the operation. Ownership/useThe wrapper table, drop table/ mat and the strategies for transport systems need to bestubble are all potential sources of damage. All developed.surfaces that come into contact with the baleshould be checked for damage or rough areas. Page 7
  8. 8. Handler damage to lift and transport wrapped bales.Factors that influence the damage caused by Particular care is needed when tipping bales onhandlers to bales include: their end. Similarly, off-loading loader-mounted Bale size, shape and weight bales onto a stack is a demanding task. Time of handling Handler type, size and adjustment Time of handling Operator technique Bales should be handled immediately after Transport distance, speed and terrain wrapping - preferably within hours. This will Number of handling events prevent damage to sagged bales and avoid Quantity of film on the bale disturbing the seal when fermentation is Grass type in the bale (soft or stemmy) underway. Bales are more easily damaged if leftWhile silage bales are nominally 1.2 m x 1.2 m (4’ overnight. Very high dry DM bales are more easilyx 4’), many bales are closer to 1.3 m in diameter. handled, as they retain their shape better. LoadingMost bales are carried by 3-point linkage mounted and transporting wrapped bales requiresfixed handlers that are reversed beneath the bale. particular care, as multiple handling and the trailerOversize bales or bales that have sagged are itself can be sources of damage.easily damaged. Wet/soft bales should be handledimmediately after wrapping. Heavy bales are more Labour and bale transportprone to damage if transported long distances Slow transport often result in the bales being leftover rough paths/fields. overnight in the field where they are prone to bird attack, and become misshapen and more difficultHandler type to handle without causing damage. The transportThe bars of fixed handlers should be straight, rust- operation is a particular constraint where largefree and smooth to prevent film damage. These numbers of bales are involved and where there ishandlers will damage bales that are too wide or have considerable distance involved.sagged. The top link should be adjusted to slide Self-loading multi-bale transporters can speed upunder the bale without damaging the film. Some the operation. In a Teagasc trial at one site, a 5-baleolder handlers are too narrow for bigger bales. self-loading trailer had a work rate of about 30Hydraulic handlers can handle wide or sagged bales/hr with a 500 m transport distance whichbales and are essential for stacking more than would equate to the output of 3 single baleone bale high, or for loading bales onto flat transporters. More consideration needs to be giventrailers- they need careful and skillful operation. to bale transport. Ownership/use strategies for bale transport systems also need to be developed.Operator adviceCareful manoeuvring when loading or unloading Storage methodthe bale is essential. An appropriate speed should Bales are usually stored singly on their sides orbe used, as bouncing during transport will increase ends, or alternatively they can be stacked 2-3 highthe pressure on the film. Self-loading trailers should on their sides. Storing bales on their ends (tippingpreferably be used on unwrapped bales. handler) will leave any damaged areas open to theExtreme care must be taken when these are used atmosphere. Bales stored on their sides oftenPage 8
  9. 9. Quick and effective wilting reduces the number of bales and associated costs suffer less spoilage from handler damage. The damaged area is invariably at the bottom and theStorage and film damage weight of the bale often forms a seal between the Storing bales on their ends will leave any damaged area and the ground. damaged areas open to the atmosphere. Bales should be carefully examined after handling. Any damage should be repaired immediately while Bales stored on their sides often suffer less damage is visible and access is still possible. from handler damage. Examine bales carefully after handling. Importance of film damage Damage should be repaired immediately The importance of small holes (1-3 mm diameter) should not be overlooked. In a Teagasc trial at while access is still possible. Oak Park, the presence of six holes (4mm x 2mm) Teagasc Research shows that one small per bale resulted in mould covering 26% of the (3mm) hole resulted in an 8% loss of silage, bale surface. Undamaged bales had less than 1% while one large hole (24mm) resulted in one mould. At Grange Research Centre one small (3mm) hole per bale resulted in an 8% loss of third losses. edible silage, while one large hole (24mm) resulted in one third of the bale being lost. Page 9
  10. 10. Film quality and cost Table 1: The effect of film cover on silageStandard wrapping procedure is typically 4 layers composition and mould growthof 25 micron film applied with 70% stretch level. No. of layers DMD pH NH3N Visible (g/kg) (g/kg N) mouldFor most bales, 16 turns of the wrapper turntable (% area)are required to ensure that the entire 2 763 4.9 100 21.5circumference gets the intended 4 layers. The wrap 4 764 4.7 86 1.7monitor should always be checked to ensure the 6 775 4.7 84 0.7correct number of turntable turns is used. Some sensitive to mould (sheep, pregnant animals orbales may need more than 16 turns to achieve 4 horses) should have a minimum of 6 layers of cover.layer cover. 4 layers of film will cost as much per tonne ofMany countries recommend 6 layers of cover. silage dry matter when applied to a loose wet baleTeagasc research has shown the effect in terms of (22% DM, 640 kg) as 6 layers on an extremelymould prevention of using 6 layers. (See tables Table 2: Film layers and mould results: 41and 2). Agri contractors should note that trial experimentsconditions are often less arduous than farm No. of layers Surface mould (%)conditions. Six layers of cover should be considered Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Trial 4where: dry matters are high; considerable handlingis anticipated; and/or sheep/horses are being fed. 2 21.5 20.4 26.0 55.0 4 1.7 0.5 1.3 7.5Twenty-four turntable turns are often required to 6 0.7 0.1 0.2 1.4achieve 6 layers of cover.The concept of using more layers of a thinner well-packed dry bale (35% DM, 600 kg).film has been suggested as a better barrier to Occasionally, there are problems with batchesgas movement. The use of thinner films must be of film. It is imperative to keep the productapproached cautiously as much more research identification information (usually a stickeris needed to determine whether thinner overall inside the film core) to identify the batch ofcover levels can give adequate protection. film if problems develop subsequently.Silage film will be significantly more expensivein years when oil/resin prices are high. Film quality and costHowever the temptation to skimp on film Standard wrapping procedure is typically 4 layers of 25 micron film applied with 70%quality/quantity should be avoided. The stretch level.emphasis must be on producing high quality For most bales, 16 turns of the wrapperforage that justifies expenditure on adequate turntable are required to ensure that the entirefilm protection. circumference gets the intended 4 layers.Applying 6 layers will increase the film cost by High DM silage bales for animals sensitive to50%, but the overall cost of the end product will mould (sheep, pregnant animals or horses)be increased by about 10%.Where good quality should have a minimum of 6 layers of cover.grass is being conserved at 30%+ DM in dense 4 layers will cost as much per tonne of DMbales, it is both prudent and not unduly expensive when applied to a loose wet bale (22% DM,to use 6 layers of cover. 640 kg) as 6 layers on a well-packed dry baleHigh DM silage bales destined for animals (35% DM, 600 kg).Page 10
  11. 11. Making quality forage insquare bales or for haylageBy Mick Roberts Plan the silage harvest and cut crop at Wrap the bales immediately after baling – optimum maturity (before flowering). Aim to within at least two hours as this improves mow in the afternoon when the sugar content fermentation is highest. Apply at least six layers of a quality wrap, Take care to keep soil contamination out of correctly stretched to match the bale size and the swath. Leave long stubble when mowing shape. Regularly check the correct overlap and operate rakes and tedders carefully. and pre-stretch are being achieved Use a 24 hour wilt and aim for dry matters of Transport field-wrapped bales to stack at least 25- 35% for square baled silage and immediately after wrapping. If this is not 55- 60% for haylage. Do not ensile over-dry possible leave for a day to allow the film to haylage. deflate and reduce the risk of punctures. Aim to make dense, well shaped bales. Do Handle bales carefully with a specialist grab - not drive too fast. Invest in pre-cutters to never spike unwrapped/wrapped bales. increase density by up to 20%. Store bales carefully and select the site with Use a reliable good quality wrapper that has care. Sheet down stack to protect from water. an output to match the baler. Maintain Use nets to keep birds from landing on bales. machine paying particular attention to the Place vermin traps and bait around outside prestretch rollers. edges.Plan for quality Adopt a flexible management approach, theProbably the biggest mistake when making entire area does not need to be cut in one go.square baled silage or haylage is not to give the The system also allows small amounts of differentcrop the attention it deserves. Grass left too long, forages to be grown, harvested and ensiled.gone to seed or simply missed out for first cut, Crops such as red clover and whole crop can bewon’t magically convert itself into quality fodder! baled, wrapped and mixed in the feed to provideAlthough this commonly happens, it’s simply not a complete forage ration.fair to blame the contractor, baler, wrapper, film or Rolling fields improves the sward, presses stonesthe system. into the ground and helps prevent soil Page 11
  12. 12. McHale square bale wrappercontamination at harvest - absolutely vital when least 24 hours – longer if possible. Aim for drymaking haylage for horses and sheep. matters of at least 25- 35% for square baled silageClostridium botulinum is commonly found in soil and 55- 60% for haylage. Do not, however, allowand can cause botulism - toxins enter a horses haylage to become over dry because the lack ofbody causing weakness and even paralysis. The moisture will impede fermentation.anaerobic conditions and lower dry matter in While mowing adjust the conditioner to the mostwrapped haylage, compared with dry hay, plus a aggressive setting that does not damage to thepH above 4.5 are ideal conditions for these crop. Take care to ensure that machines’ tines dobacteria. not rake soil and other contamination into the swath.Maintain this vigilance when mowing, leaving a Set the mower or rake to make a square, boxy swathdecent stubble height to avoid the risk of soil that is just narrower than the baler’s pick-up. Set thecontamination, as well as helping air circulate pick-up height so the tines do not touch the soil, butthrough the swath. After mowing, wilt the crop for at lift the swath from the top of the stubble.Page 12
  13. 13. For both square and mini bales, set the baler to its case, it imperative they are handled and stackedhighest possible density. The aim is to compress carefully to prevent damage to the film which willthe crop to exclude the air. Pre-cutter (chopper) lead to spoilage. For users these bales are easy tounits increase density by up to 20%, depending feed out and are usually used up before theon make and available chop length. Aim to make fodder can develop undesirable moulds.dense, well-shaped bales and avoid excessiveforward speeds. Large square balesSet the square baler or mini wrapper up as per Big square bales measuring about 1.2m x 1.0mthe manufacturer’s instructions and keep up to 2.5m long weigh in excess of 750kg.checking the operation throughout the day. It is Mechanical handling is essential, requiringnow generally accepted that six layers of a quality specialist squeeze grabs. While contractorsfilm provide the best seal for both mini and square making silage or haylage will have the necessarybales. The extra cost is more than made up by the equipment, a suitable loader may not be availablereduced risk of spoilage. on the user’s farm.Pay particular attention to the wrap dispenser pre- However as tractor power and loader sizestretch rollers. Clean the rollers regularly increases, this is less of an issue. There are alsoparticularly in warm weather. Wipe the rollers with safety implications - serious or even fatal injurieswhite spirit or similar solvent to remove any build- - if a bale were to fall onto a person from a height.up of tack. Always align the dispensers with the Care needs to be taken making stacks,centre of the bale or to the maker’s instructions (if particularly with lower dry matter material.different) for mini or square balers. Stacking too high will result in the lower balesNever move bales with a spike. Spiking being squeezed by the weight, putting the wrapunwrapped bales allows air to permeate the tight under stress.package and damages the film on wrapped bales. Sensible stacking is required and it is importantIt is simply pointless making good dense bales, to ‘tie’ the square bales together to ensurewrapping them with expensive film to put a hole it! stability. These are much easier to stack thanIf air gets into bales it allows mould to grow. This round bales, making better use of the availablecan be accompanied by bacteria such as Listeria area in yards.moncytogenes which can cause abortion in ewes The square bales also make far more- humans can also be infected. economical use of lorry space. This makes the bales an easily traded commodity. Despite theMini bales size, most users prefer feeding square balesMini bales weighing about 50kg are very saleable compared with their slightly smaller roundparticularly as haylage for horse feed. They are counterparts.easily handled and stored – preferably in a This is because the square baling processesbuilding and at the very least under waterproof forms wads that are more easily managed bysheeting. Buyers can pick up the bales and put complete diet feeders and other units. It is alsothem in the boot of a car. Conversely, the much easier to cut, and pull out the strings fromdisadvantage is that the smaller packs are not so a square bale, compared with unwrapping netsuitable for mechanical handling. Whatever the off a round bale. Page 13
  14. 14. Research on ConservedForage for PoniesBy M. I. S. Moore-Colyer and A. C. LonglandInstitute of Rural Studies, lnstitute of Grassland andEnvironmental Research, Aberystwyth, Wales.Introduction earlier stage of growth than hay and as aGrass hay is the traditional conserved forage consequence they have a higher nutritive value, withoffered to horses in Britain, yet good typical metabolizable energy (ME) values forquality hay is often scarce and expensive. ruminants of 12 to 14 MJ/kg DM (Ministry ofWorking or breeding horses frequently require a Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), 1992). Thesehigher plane of nutrition than that provided by hay, forages form the basis of winter rations for many farmwhich has a typical digestible energy (DE) value ruminants, but they are seldom given to horses.for horses of 8 MJ/kg dry matter (DM). Clamp silage is considered to have too low a pHIn order to meet the higher energy demands of and too high a moisture content to be eitherthese animals, high levels of palatable or practical to feed to horses.cereal-based concentrates are offered which can Although conserved in a similar manner tolead to a number of metabolic disorders such as haylage, big-bale silage may occasionally containcolic and laminitis. Clostridium botulinum and/or Listeria spp. toEven good quality hay contains a high level of which horses are particularly susceptible and thisdust (fungal spores, plant fragments, mites and has made some people wary of feeding it to theirbacteria which can elicit the onset of the horses. However, anecdotal evidence suggestsdebilitating disorder, chronic obstructive that increasing numbers of owners are feedingpulmonary disease (COPD). Horses that have grass silage to horses with no detrimental effects.COPD remain sensitized to such dust for the rest These silages contain an additional 4 to 6 MJ/kgof their lives and cannot be given hay without DM (MAFF, 1992) compared with hay, whichdeveloping the disease. enables productivity to be maintained with aThe most popular low-dust alternative to hay is reduced reliance on feeding concentrates.commercially produced Haylage, which is grassconserved under anaerobic conditions at a DM of The aims of this research were550 g/kg. However, haylage is expensive and (a) to determine the intake and digestibility of fourthere is increasing interest in feeding cheaper, types of conserved fibrous forage by ponies;alternative fibrous forages (fibre = non-starch (b) To ascertain if grass silage is a suitablepolysaccharides; NSP + lignin), which have both replacement for hay in equine rations; and (c)an enhanced nutritive value and a low dust to measure the contribution of thecontent. carbohydrate fraction of fibre, the non-starchClamp silage and big-bale silage are conserved at an polysaccharides (NSF) to the DE of the forage.Page 14
  15. 15. Material and methods Food composition and animal performanceFour mature Welsh cross pony geldings (Live The average chemical compositions of the fourweight Ca.320 to 370 kg) were used in a 4 X 4 experimental forages are given in Table 1.Latin-square change-over design experiment,consisting of four 21-day periods. The ponies Energy and protein parameterswere individually housed in pens, with rubber The daily Digestible Energy (DE) intakes of Bigmats covering the floors and water was available Bales, Clamp Silage and Haylage met orad libitum. Hay (H), haylage (HY), big-bale silage exceeded the calculated daily energy requirement(BB) or clamp silage (CS) were offered at 1.65 of the ponies, but Hay did not. The Digestiblekg DM per 100 kg LW per day. Crude Protein (DCP) intake for Hay was only 34During the 5-day collection phase in viva apparent g/day and provided proportionately only 0.20 ofdigestibility (AD) of dry matter (DMD), organic the theoretical daily DCP requirements, whereasmatter (OMD), crude protein (CPD), gross the DCP intakes of the other three foragesenergy (GED), along with total and individual non- exceeded this requirement.starch polysaccharide (NSPD) constituents were The Dry Matter (DM) contents of the four foragesdetermined by total faecal collection. offered in this experiment were notably higher than Table 1 Average corn position of the four experimental forages, hay (H), haylage (HY), big-bale silage (BB) and clamp silage (CS) (g/kg dry matter (DM) unless otherwise indicated) H HY BB CS± DM (g/kg) 922 676 500 337 Organic matter 946 934 937 916 Crude protein 44 70 111 154 Starch 90 50 40 33 Gross energy (MJ/kg) 17.4 17.5 17.8 18.6 Calcium 3.1 5.8 4.7 5.5 Phosphorus 1.3 2.0 3.7 3.3 Magnesium 1.4 1.8 2.4 2.6 Non-starch polysaccharides (NSF) Rhamnose 0.5 0.1 0 0.5 Arabinose 25 17 25 23 Xylose 93 49 99 69 Mannose 2 2 1 2 Galactose 9 6 8 9 Glucose 261 210 256 224 Uronic acids 20 11 17 25 Total NSF 408 293 405 353I CS fermentation characteristics: pH 4; NH3 7% of total N; total volatile fatty acids 86 g/kg DM; lactic acid 69 g/kg DM;acetic acid 17 g/kg DM; butyric acid <1 g/kg DM. Page 15
  16. 16. the 864, 368 and 242 g/kg recorded by MAFF conservation. The Ca levels of the H, BB and CS(1992) for typical British samples of Hay, Big Bales were markedly lower than the average valuesand Clamp Silage respectively. No comparative quoted by MAFF and may well reflect the low Cavalues could be found for Haylage, although the DM content of the soil in west Wales.content recorded here was 120 g/kg higher than the550 g/kg quoted in the trade literature for this Food offeredproduct. The Crude Protein (CP) content of Hay at The amount of food offered was designed to meet44 g/kg DM is typical of the mature grass hay given the maintenance requirements of the ponies andto horses but was less than half the value of food refusals were recorded. However, over the107g/Kg DM quoted by MAFF (1992) for average 12-week experimental period, food intakes variedgrass hay in Britain. between ponies and diet, with some poniesThe theoretical DCP daily requirement for horses is showing marked preferences for certain foods,0.6 X LW (kg), and therefore, for the ponies in this Clamp Silage being the least favoured.trial the daily DCP requirement was Ca. 200 g/ day. The preference for the Bales and Hay is reflectedAccording to these calculations, the CP content of in the liveweight (LW) figures, which show aHay resulted in a deficiency in DCP for this diet. significant increase when ponies wereThe other three forages either met or exceeded consuming these two diets in comparison withthe calculated dietary DCP requirements of the Clamp Silage. Fresh weight intakes were similarponies. The pH and contents of ammonia and for the HY, BB and CS diets, although the poniesorganic acids of the Clamp Silage given in this did consume 293 kg/day more BB than CS,experiment are well within the normal range for indicating that gut capacity was not a limitingwell preserved silages factor in controlling the intake of CS.The GE, P and Mg contents of the four foragesare similar to averages in Britain and reflect the Dry matter intakephysiological maturity of the grass at the time of The Dry Matter Intake (DM1) of Baled Silage andTable 2 Live weight (LW) and voluntary food intakes of fresh weight (FWI) anddry matter (DM1), for ponies offered either hay (H), haylage (HY), big-bale silage(BB) or clamp silage (CS) at 1.65 kg DM per 100 kg LW per day H HY BB CS s.e.d SignificanceLW (kg) 333a 340b 341b 317a 8.99 *Voluntary food intakeFWI (kg/day) 5.37a 9.31a 11.78b 8.85a 1.226 *DM1 (kg/day) 4.95a 6.30a 5.95a 2.95c 0.444 *DM1 (g/kg LW ~er day) 14.7a 18.4a 17.3a 9.17a 1.47 *DM1 (g/kg M07 per day) 62•9a 79.2b 74.6ab 38.8c 6.06 *a,b,c Values in the same row not sharing common superscripts differ significantly (P < 0.05).Page 16
  17. 17. Hay noted here are higher than the 4.46 and 388 associated with high organic acids and it is possiblekg DM per day found for big bale silage and hay that similar parameters affect DM1 in Morrow (1998) when feeding two differentchop lengths of silage and hay to ponies. Morrow Calculated daily energy requirementalso recorded significantly lower intakes for hay Although the DM1 of CS was low, the calculatedthan for both chop lengths of big bale silage. daily energy requirement was met due to theThe DM1 of BB and HY were similar and were Digestible Energy of Clamp Silage being twicehigher than the 63 g/kg M075 recorded by that of hay. However, as the DEl by the poniesMorrow for both long and short chopped big-bale given HY and BB were 1.66 and 1.7 fold theirsilage. In the current study the DM1 of Clamp calculated DE requirements, it is clear thatSilage was significantly lower than from the other meeting the daily DE requirements per se did notthree forages but similar to that recorded by limit DM1 in this experiment.McLean et al. (1995) when feeding ‘Ecosyl’inoculated Lolium perenne clamp silage to horses In vivo apparent digestibilityad libitum and may suggest that the DM1 of clamp The apparent digestibilities of DM, GM, CP andgrass silage by horses is generally lower than that GE for Hay were significantly lower than the valuesof most hays. Indeed, the nutrient profile and recorded for the other three foods and arefermentation characteristics of silage can affect food marginally lower than the published values for aintake and indicates that low intakes by ruminants are variety of grass hays given to horses .TheseHorses can thrive on quality haylage but good preservation is essential to avoid health problems. Page 17
  18. 18. differences probably reflect the variation in species,soil conditions and cutting time of each of the hays.ConclusionThe results from this experiment indicate thatClamp Silage, Big Bales and Haylage were readilydigested by ponies and can be used as dust-freeforages to replace hay in diets for equines. TheDigestible Energy was similar to thoseencountered in many commercially availablecompound foods and make these ideal forages forperformance horses with high energy demands.However, for the less active horse intakes of BigBales and Haylage may have to be limited toprevent obesity, whereas regulation of voluntaryfood intake of Clamp Silage is probablyunnecessary as in this experiment DM1 was self-limiting. The low DM1 noted for CS howeverrequires further investigation. The measurement ofthe contribution of NSP to Digestible Energy is anovel and more accurate means of assessing thenutritive value of the fibrous fraction of forages.AcknowledgementsFinancial support was provided by the CollegeResearch Fund, University of WalesAberystwyth, and the haylage was generouslydonated by Marksway Co. The authors wouldalso like to thank Richard Leyton for his help withthe laboratory analyses and lola Phillips forassistance with the ponies.Page 18
  19. 19. High dry matter legumecrops for baled silageDr. Ed Charmley, Agriculture and chopped silages of the same DM,Agri-food Canada,Crops and fermentation is always less.Livestock Research Centre. The pH declines more slowly and is ultimately higher, there are less organic acids and moreRound bale silage is becoming as popular in parts of residual sugars remain in baled silage. UnlikeNorth America as in Europe. In eastern Canada precision chopped silage, where the fermentationbaled silage is replacing conventional tower or has a definite end-point, fermentation in baledbunker (clamp) silage on many farms. Initially, smaller silage tends to be ongoing and continuesfarmers were the first to adopt the technology, but as throughout the storage period.the advantages of flexibility and labour were realized, Canadian research has confirmed that intake andmany larger operations are now using round bale performance of baled silage, with restrictedsilage for some or all of their forage needs. fermentations, is generally as good as, or betterEastern Canadian conditions are somewhat than precision chopped silage of similar DMdifferent to Western Europe, with drier silage content (See Table 1).making conditions and different crops. Some evidence suggests that protein quality mayTypically, silage crops are wilted for less than 24 h and not be as good in round bale silage as comparedensiled at between 30 and 50% Dry Matter (DM). with precision chopped silage. Protein quality isMajor forage crops are timothy and lucerne, with red preserved by a combination of low pH and rapidclover replacing lucerne as the dominant legume in wilting. Thus effective wilting in the field is neededwetter regions, prone to freeze-thaw cycles in winter. to offset the negative effects of a slow decline inPerennial ryegrass does not survive Canadian pH in round bale silage.winters but some annual ryegrasses are grown inrotations. Maize silage is also an important forage Optimum dry mattercrop. In spite of these differences, round bale Optimum dry matter for baled silage in easterntechnology, imported form Europe has become Canada is between 30 and 40%. This is higherwidespread. By and large the same management than the average for British and Irish round baledecisions apply with some crucial differences. silage. Wilting conditions in eastern Canada frequently allow for rapid drying up to about 30 orBaled silage has a restricted fermentation 40% within 24 hours. Round bale silage wetterThe physical nature of baled silage is very than 30% is prone to freezing in Canadiandifferent to that of precision-chopped silage. winters, which makes it very difficult to cope withThe absence of chopping reduces physical at feeding. Although Canadian wilting conditionsdamage to the stems and leaves which will often allow for higher DM content, baled silageslows and restricts fermentation. If round drier than 40% is prone to spoilage, particularlybale silages are compared with precision before the temperature drops in winter-time. Page 19
  20. 20. Table 1. Relative composition and animal performance from round bale and precisionchopped silage in eastern Canada (8 comparisons) 1. Precision-chopped silage Round bale silage Round bale silage (DM range 30 to 40%) (DM range 30 to 40%) (DM range 40 to 50%) pH 4.4 4.8 5.1 Fermentation acids(% DM) 130 75 41 Ammonia (% N) 11 13 10 Non-protein N (% N) 55 55 58 DM intake (% LW) 2.1 2.4 2.5 LW gain (kg/d) 0.8 1.0 0.9 Feed/gain ratio 9.2 8.4 10.7 1 Adapted from: Beaulieu et al 1993, Charmley et al. 1999; Nicholson et al. 1991;1992; Ouellet et al. 2000.Furthermore, round bales only became popular in However part of this response is actually attributedCanada after the advent of silage wrap and hard- to more wastage of long, unchopped silage. Evencore balers. These two mechanical advances have under controlled research conditions, this can be aplayed a major role in improving aerobic stability of problem, and is certainly a factor on many farms.higher DM baled silages. Voluntary intake of round Nevertheless, some of the intake response is realbale silage improves as the DM increased up to and translates into higher animal performance. We50% (Table 1), and can be 20% greater than suggest that farmers should expect to use aboutprecision chopped silage ensiled at 30% DM. 10 to 20% more forage when feeding baled silageHowever, in 8 Canadian studies with growing compared with precision chopped silage. This willcattle, animal performance was greatest for round usually contribute to improved performance butbale silage in the 30 to 40% DM range (Table 1). often with lower feed use efficiency.Is a restricted fermentation a benefit? Ensiling legumesGenerally, higher voluntary intake and better Lucerne (alfalfa) is widely grown in eastern Canadaanimal performance from drier round bales, either in pure stands, or in mixtures with timothy orversus wetter bales or precision chopped silage, other grasses. Lucerne, as with all legumes, is morehave been attributed to the restricted difficult to ensile than grasses. The crop is lower infermentation. However, evidence has also shown soluble carbohydrates than grass and has a higherthat protein degradation can be more extensive in protein concentration which contributes to increasedround bales with restricted fermentation. Our buffering capacity (Table 2).research has shown that cattle respond better to A good example of the difficulty encounteredsupplemental protein when fed baled silage rather when ensiling legumes was tested in a studythan precision chopped silage. On balance, higher comparing lucerne silage with annual ryegrassintakes usually compensate for any possible silage (Table 2). Although both silages werenegative effects of a restricted fermentation. similar in DM at ensiling and underwent similarIs DM intake improved? fermentations. However, liveweight gain was lessMost of our research has found that cattle eat more for cattle fed lucerne silage. This was attributed toround bales than precision chopped silage. poor preservation and utilisation of the protein inPage 20
  21. 21. lucerne. This study was conducted with conditioning at mowing will increase dryingprecision-chopped silage, as there are no direct rate and the crop can be baled at 40% withoutcomparisons of grass and legume baled silages. an excessive field period.A similar “protein” problem could be expected In Canadian conditions this means less that 24in round bale silages, and might actually be h. In wetter conditions, the risk of damage fromworse, given the slower fermentation. However, rain is always greater in a conditioned the summary of research trials in Table 1, over If wet weather is unavoidable, and balinghalf the comparisons were made with legume or below 30% DM looks likely, use of a goodlegume-dominated swards (either lucerne or silage inoculant may help with clover). It seems safe to assume that protein Wetter bales should be fed out first, sincein baled legume silages can be well preserved, the fermentation in round bales is slow andat least under conditions of rapid wilting. on-going as opposed to rapid and short-Our research would suggest that lucerne can lived in precision-chopped silage. Thus, thebe successfully ensiled in round bales, sooner it is fed the less chance there is forprovided the DM is in the 30- 40% range. a bad fermentation to develop. Finally over-Below 30% DM - poor fermentation: wilting should be avoided. higher non-protein N and ammonia N levels Handling problems - irregular bales, freezing Concluding points:Above 40% DM - Excessive aerobic spoilage: 1. Legumes (lucerne and red clover in eastern Crop becomes brittle. Canada) can make good round bale silage. Loss of leaf reduces feeding value 2. Baling at between 30 and 40 % restricts Bale density is reduced, increasing the fermentation but aerobic spoilage is still controlled. amount of air in the bale 3. Voluntary Intake is up to 20% higher for Prickly stems puncture the silage wrap round bale silage.To maximize dryer legume silage quality, the 4. Performance is excellent - around 1 kg/day in growing cattle.crop should be harvested before it gets too 5. However feed conversion is often less - needmature (mid-bloom growth stage). Crop to budget for more feed with this systemTable 2. Composition of ryegrass and lucerne precision chopped silages grown in eastern Canada1. Annual Ryegrass Lucerne relative composition Lucerne/ryegrass Dry matter (%) 30 30 1.00 Crude protein (% DM) 20 23 1.15 Non-protein N (% N) 37 50 1.35 Ammonia N (% N) 17 22 1.29 Acid detergent fibre (% DM) 30 31 1.00 Neutral detergent fibre (% DM) 48 39 0.81 Total acids (% DM) 5.1 4.9 0.96 Lactic acid (% total acids) 64 65 1.00 Acetic acid (% total acids) 26 27 1.00 Butyric acid (% total acids) 3.1 7.8 2.50 pH 4.9 5.5 1.121 Adapted from Charmley 2002. Page 21
  22. 22. Wrapping alternativeforage cropsThere is growing interest Haylageamongst farmers in the use of Haylage has increased in popularity as a highalternative forages to value feed especially for horses. Conditions needcomplement grass silage in the to be dry and the grass crop wilted to achieve 55-feeding of ruminant live stock. 60%Dry Matter (DM). Haylage has the benefits of: Improved feed value over hay, better retentionKaleage of nutrients and less waste. It is also a sweetKaleage is a very palatable high protein forage, smelling, highly palatable feed- no effluent isoften consumed in preference to other feeds. This released. And it is a dust free productshould lead to higher feed intakes and betterstock performance. Kale is relatively easy to grow Wrapping recommendationsand unlike maize, its cultivation is possible Haylage is made up of very high DM material, butthroughout most of Britain and Ireland. its success is reliant on the exclusion of air.Fresh yields of up to 10-12 tonnes/acre at between Therefore it is recommended to put a minimum of18-20% DM and 15-18%protein means there are 6 layers at 50% overlap on each bale using areal potential savings in purchased feed costs. quality silage film. The bales should be handled with great care,Wrapping recommendations carefully netted and frequently checked for signsThe crop is usually harvested during of rodent damage.August/September. Although kale can berelatively high in sugar content, an effectiveadditive is needed because the buffering capacityof this crop is at least twice that of grass.Bales should be wrapped as soon as possibleafter baling. Because of the heavier weight ofeach bale (i.e.750-850kg) six layers of film aquality film should be applied with a 50%overlap.Bales should not be stacked as this will increasethe risk of effluent loss and may result in balessplitting. As with all wrapped silage bales theyshould be checked regularly through the winterfor rodent damage and patched if necessary. Higher dry matter bales can be stacked 3 high. This saves space and bales are less exposed to damage from small animals and birds.Page 22
  23. 23. Whole crop Intake and palatability are improved overWhole crop is flexible alternative forage and is untreated straw. After the treatment process ispotentially higher yielding than grass. It is suitable complete (2-4weeks) the straw is completelyfor both autumn and spring grown cereals of preserved and sterilised- even if the wrap is tornalmost any species. Triticale, rye or oats will all and air gets in, no moulding should occur.make good forage but wheat tends to be the mostpopular. Wrapping recommendationsOats offer an alternative in wetter areas of the Bales of straw are wrapped immediately aftercountry where fungal problems could hamper a baling and a representative number should bewheat crop. Barley is slightly less suitable. This is weighed to ensure the correct amount ofbecause the tough grain coat formed once the crop ammonia is injected.exceeds 36%DM is relatively resistant to chemical Aqueous or anhydrous ammonia is easily injectedbreakdown in the rumen and this limits digestibility. into the bale through a hole in the wrap, which is then sealed with a patch. Four layers of filmWrapping recommendations should be applied to ensure that the ammonia isWhole crop for baling should be cut when the well sealed in the bale.leaf is changing colour and the grain is at the Black rather than lighter coloured film ischeesy ripe stage. This will typically be recommended as this absorbs heat, warms up theapproximately 5 weeks before the normal bale and speeds up the reaction to the ammoniacombining date. treatment, especially in colder climates.The DM of the crop should be 36-46% but better Individually wrapped bales should be left on theresults are achieved at 39-41% DM. For improved treatment site for a minimum period of one weekfermentation a biological silage inoculant may be before moving. Bales can then be stacked up toapplied at 2 litres per tonne fresh weight. three layers high.Cutting at higher DM’s may result in aerobicstability problems such as mould growth and the Strawharder seed coat may reduce digestibility. As Straw needs to be wrapped as soon after balingwhole crop is usually stemmy and high in dry as possible when the material is very dry.matter, six layers of a quality film with 50% Normally two layers are applied using a 50%overlap should be applied to the bales. Bales can overlap. The pre-stretch unit and the turntablebe stacked up to three layers high. gearing need to be altered to ensure that only the body of the bale is wrapped.Ammonia treated straw This barrel wrapping leaves both ends of theThe ammonia treatment of straw will convert bale exposed, protects the main body from thestraw of very low feeding value into forage with a elements but allows air to circulate sofeeding value equivalent to moderate hay. It has preventing the build up of carbon dioxide whichseveral benefits. It is cheap alternative forage. can cause moulding. This technique can beDigestibility is increased on average by 10-15 used to help preserve the quality of the strawunits of D-Value (DMD) and crude protein is and keep it dry when there is no undercoverincreased by 3-4%. storage. Page 23
  24. 24. Planning for quality andcost effective silage an essential part of annual feed budgeting, and providing the requirements necessitates the allocation of sufficient land, removal of grazing animals in time and timely application of sufficient fertiliser. Brendan Barnes In addition, adequate drainage, avoidance of soil compaction and maintenance of ryegrass-By Brendan Barnes, dominant swards greatly help provideagri consultant with consistently better grass yields, digestibility and ensilability.20 years experience as anagronomic adviser on Silage systems for different enterprises.grassland and nutrient Achieving a correct balance between yield andmanagement. quality is the challenge that faces all farmers. ThisThis article identifies current best practice is determined by the farm enterprise, soil type,particularly in the area of nutrient management and stocking rate and the expected length of theintegrated grass management systems wintering period. In each situation economicGrass silage is the primary winter forage on many considerations play a key role.farms in Ireland and elsewhere. Matching silagequality and quantity to each farm and enterprise in a Spring calvingcost effective and environmentally correct manner is The reliance on very high DMD (dry matterthe key to long term profit and sustainability. digestibility) silage is not as critical in creameryFarmers producing grass silage to support high herds as in autumn calving herds, if the trend isproduction and growth rates in livestock require a towards compact calving close to grazing grass.comprehensive plan to consistently achieve high The emphasis is on sufficient silage asyields of quality silage with minimal waste and maintenance feed during the dry period whilewith controlled costs. Flexible systems of providing high quality silage for freshly calvedproduction allow farmers respond to the effects of cows in spring and late lactation.unpredictable weather.The critical importance of an adequate supply of Winter/liquid milk.silage to feed livestock throughout the winter, and Top quality silage is a critical in winter milkof possessing a reserve of silage to buffer animals production where maximum performance isthrough other times has been starkly illustrated in required. While maize silage has increased inprevious fodder shortages. importance as a complementary winter-feed,Determining the silage requirements of a farm is grass silage will continue to be important.Page 24
  25. 25. Cattle are available for every 5,000 litre/ha of undilutedWhere conditions allow, beef farmers allow stock cattle slurry applied in the Feb/March period.on silage fields prior to closing with grazing Slurry applied under Irish conditions prenormally completed in Ireland by mid April. A Christmas contributes very little N to a first cuthigher percentage of total silage is conserved as silage crop.baled silage on cattle farms than on dairy farms. If early grazing, assume that one-third of the NSilage quality targets on cattle farms depend on: applied will be available to the silage crop and Type of animal & performance required. reduce the specific Nitrogen for silage Cost and feeding value of alternative feeds. accordingly. Example; if you apply 57 kg/ha for early grazing you should reduce N for silage by 19Baled silage kg/ha.It is the main system of winter fodder on the Research to date has shown no clear benefit tomajority of small-sized farm. Although larger farms splitting N applications for first cuts. However,usually produce precision-chop silage as a first where the silage fields are not being grazed incut, they also bale surplus grass from paddocks spring apply about one third of the silage N inso as to maintain grass quality for grazing animals. January or February and the remainder in March. Surplus grass needs to be taken out as it arises. Many farmers feel they benefit by applying 35 toThis ensures that the area cut is returned into the 50 kg/ha of N in Jan/Feb- they will be in agrazing cycle for the next rotation. Delaying position to take advantage of any early growthremoval means that the ground will not have for possible grazing.recovered for the next grazing cycle. The rate of N recommended for second cuts is 75 to 100kg N/ha (60 to 80 units N/acre). ANitrogen (N) for Silage second cut should be treated as a crop in itsIf too little N is applied yield will suffer. If own right and requires Phosphate (P) andexcess is applied it will make the crop more Potash (K) as well as N. This can be applieddifficult to ensile through the increased risk of either in the form of slurry or a compoundlodging and a combination of reduced sugar fertiliser.levels and increased buffering capacity. Potassium in particular is an important nutrientTotal nitrogen for first cut silage should be for second cuts, as much of the available K inbetween 110 to 140 kg N/ha (90 to 110 units the soil will have been utilised by the first cut.per acre). The higher rates of N can be used on Urea is generally not a suitable nitrogen sourcerecent reseeds and in a two cut regime, while the for second cut silage, as the risk of volatilisationlower rate is more suited to old permanent losses can increase on bare swards in warm drypasture. conditions.Nitrogen should be applied eight weeks beforethe expected cutting date so as to ensure at least Phosphorus and Potassium (P& K)six weeks of active uptake before harvesting. N Good soil fertility is the foundation for good yieldsFertiliser needs to be adjusted to take account of of quality silage. Regular soil sampling should beorganic N in slurry- variable and difficult to followed each year. The objective is to maintainestimate accurately. Assume 10 to 15 KGs of N silage fields at index 3 for P and K. Where early Page 25
  26. 26. grazing on silage fields is not required or full deficient soils .The most responsive soils areproduction is not attainable the target is P index 2. sandy, free draining soils with low organicThe P and K removal levels in silage are high matter content. Responses of 30% extra grasscompared to a grazing scenario where up to 80% has been obtained by applying sulphur onof the nutrients are returned by the grazing stock. In responsive sites. Grass quality is also improveda continuous silage situation adequate P & K must as more of the nitrogen is converted to plantbe returned or yields will suffer. Silage fields are protein when the plant has an adequate supplyoften on outfarms or on heavier soil types not of sulphur. Utilisation of grass intake is alsosuitable for early grazing, and it may not be feasible apply slurry every year. Soil analysis is not an accurate predictor ofThere is evidence to show that potassium levels on Irish S deficiency. Herbage analysis is the mostsilage fields have declined. In the last five years accurate method of predicting a likelypotassium usage has declined by 30% and over 60 % response. The plant sulphur level should beof silage fields that are cut twice are now classed as low greater than 0.2% in D.M and the N: S ratioor deficient in K. less than 15:1.Knowledge of soil type andThe P and K recommendations for silage are local responses are good indicators of aoutlined in Tables 2. and 3. Potash likely response.recommendations are based on the K levels in the Many farmers over the years have shown asoil and the quantity of slurry spread on the silage response to sulphur on their own farm byfields. Both these factors are also taken into account applying a nitrogen fertiliser on part of a fieldwhen giving P recommendations, as well as stocking and treating an adjoining area with anrate, type of enterprise, level of concentrate feeding equivalent nitrogen fertiliser containingand the requirement for early grass. sulphur. Dramatic responses have sometimes beenLime observed on second cut silage and onA good soil lime status is also required with a grazing fields from May onwards. Generallytarget soil pH of 6.3.Care should be taken when good responses are not observed on first cutapplying lime. If it adheres to the crop good silage except on some sandy soil types. If apreservation will be very difficult to achieve. good response is obtained on second cuts itLime should only be applied to short grass may be worthwhile using a fertiliser with Sbefore March or after the silage harvesting for first cuts.season is completed. Urea is not a suitable Us age of traditional fertilisers likenitrogen source on grassland in the season Sulphate of Ammonia has declined as theyafter liming. tended to scorch the grass under dry conditions and were also more difficultSulphur for silage fertilisers to spread. The rates of sulphurCorrect sulphur fertilisation can have major recommended are 20 kg S/ha for each cutbenefits for the yield and quality of a silage crop and 20 kg S/ha applied on grazing fieldsand in particular for second cuts. Like N it over the course of the year.needs to be applied every year on sulphurPage 26
  27. 27. Optimising silage feedingvalue By Dr. Tom Butler, Farm Business Advisers Ltd., Fermoy, Ireland.The feeding value of silage is determined by the EFFECT OF DRY MATTER INTAKE ONnutritive value (energy and protein density) per COMPOSITION OF DIET SUPPLYING 240 MJ OF ME AND 3500g OF CRUDE PROTEINunit of dry matter (DM), and the voluntary animalintake. It is of little benefit to the farmer to have Diet DM DAILY DM INTAKE (kg)silage of excellent chemical composition, but Composition 18.0 20.0 22.0highly unattractive to the animal. In establishingsilage feeding value, intake is a more important ME (MJ/kg) 13.3 12.0 10.9determinant than any chemical factor. Crude Protein % 19.4 17.5 15.9Silage nutritive valueThe nutritive value of a clamp of silage isdetermined by:- potassium. Where there is proper maintenance(i) (DM) Content: of soil fertility, there is not wide fluctuation in the Silage of 27% dry matter is potentially worth quantities of major minerals present in silage. 50% more than silage of 18% dry matter. Of the trace minerals, there are generally(ii) Energy Density: inadequate amounts of copper, selenium and The energy density of silage dry matter is iodine to meet animal requirements. influenced by the digestibility of the herbage ensiled, and the efficiency of preservation. Importance of feed intake The typical average values found in silage Whether feeding a lactating dairy cow, finishing analysis are:- bullock or growing weanling, it is essential to supply the animal with a daily dietary intake that contains allDMD % ME (MJ/kg DM) the nutrients for the desired level of performance. 68 – 76 9.7 – 10.9 Well preserved, palatable, silage that has high intake characteristics will generally give better performance,(iii) Protein Content: particularly when measured over a prolonged period Satisfactory protein values are in the region of of feeding. As total dry matter intake increases, the 14.0% to 17.0%. Excessively high crude required dietary concentration of nutrients decreases. proteins are composed largely of non-protein This is illustrated in Table 1 showing different dry nitrogen. These are of little nutritive value, and matter intakes in lactating dairy cow diets. make good preservation more difficult to achieve. Relative feeding value(iv) Mineral Composition: It is essential that the farmer makes every effort to The major minerals of importance in silage are optimise the silage making procedure. calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and This involves all of the steps from start of growth to Page 27
  28. 28. animal consumption: silage, rather than be wasted as excessively mature(i) Use good ryegrass pasture. grazing or topping.(ii) Ensure proper soil nutrient balance. (ii) Bales can be conveniently fed during brief periods(iii) Cut at correct stage of growth to achieve the of grass scarcity e.g. drought, wet weather. This is best balance of yield, digestibility difficult to do with clamp silage. and protein content. (iii) When good quality grass of high dry matter content(iv) Ensure good preservation by wilting or is used, high animal intakes are achieved. additive use. (iv) Expensive silage clamps are not required.(v) Avoid clamp wastage during storage, or at (v) There is no effluent wastage. feeding time. Apart from improved efficiency of bale making, the other change that is required at farmWhilst good quality grass silage is the basis of level is greater attention to the quality of the materialprofitable dairy and beef cattle winter feeding, being ensiled. Since all bales carry the same cost ofit no longer has the big cost advantage that mowing, baling and wrapping, it is extremely wastefulprevailed historically. Quality by- products such to have herbage of very low nutrient Brewers Grains, Beet Pulp, Citrus Pulp and Unfortunately, a large proportion of Irish baled silageMolasses are quite competitive with silage on is made of excessively mature, poor quality energy basis. Apart from by-products, homegrown cereals are no longer highly expensive Predicting silage intakerelative to silage with harvest cereals costing Extensive research work has taken place atabout €90 per tonne. the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland (ARINI), Hillsborough. As aBaled silage result of these studies, it is possible toThe making of baled silage has developed accurately predict the intake and feedingmainly on smaller farms, but is now gaining value of silage for dairy cows, beef cattlemore widespread popularity. The major and sheep. In collaboration with ARINI, acriticism of baled silage has been its higher number of forage laboratories in Britain andcost relative to clamp silage. The cost can be Ireland are now using Near Infraredreduced significantly by greater attention to Reflectance Spectroscopy (N I R S) tobale making, and herbage dry matter. There is predict silage intake and composition.72% more dry matter in a bale of 650 kg at32% dry matter compared with a bale of 550 This new analytical technology haskg at 22% dry matter. Well-packed, chopped resulted in greater emphasis on silagebales can be made to weights of at least 650 quality. It also enables the advisor andkg at high dry matter, thus reducing the cost farmer to determine the quantities and typesper unit of dry matter. of supplementary feeds required for the different categories of livestock being fed.Baled silage has distinct advantages tooffer on all farms:-(i) Surplus grass can be harvested into high qualityPage 28
  29. 29. Assessing feed stocks Assess the forage necessary to carry stock every effort to avoid feeding mouldy or poorly through the winter and the amount of forage fermented silage. Sheep are the most susceptible, available on the farm - see Table 2. followed by pregnant cattle. Some preventative Have the silage analysed to determine its feed measures to avoid listeriosis are as follows: value and adjust intakes for different dry Maintain an anaerobic environment by ensuring matters. good compaction and sealing; The quantity of silage eaten will depend on Keep a clean environment and discard spoiled. concentrate feeding level and silage intake Do not feed mouldy silage and remove refused potential. silage every two days to avoid accumulations of spoiled material.Risks with feeding poor quality forage Listeria is also thought to be responsible for eyeFeeding poor quality forage can result in health problems. In severe cases, sight may be lost for aproblems such as listeriosis. Listeria is a type ofbacteria that can grow in poorly fermented silage. Itis naturally present in the soil and multiplies quicklyin silage where air is present. This can occur if thesilage wrap is torn or where soil contamination ispresent. Listeriosis in cattle and sheep causesinflammation of the brain tissue (often characterisedby animals going around in circles) and can alsocause abortion and death. Farmers must make Ewes too can appreciate the quality of this forage. Page 29
  30. 30. Table 1: Monthly feed requirement for various classes of stock Silage Small Hay Hay/straw (tonnes/month) strawbales/month 1.3m round baleDAIRY COWS-milking 1.5 17.0 1.25-dry 1.0 10.0 0.75SUCKLER COWS-dry spring calving 1.0 10.0 0.75-Autumn calving 1.2 14.0 1.0OTHER CATTLE-350kg+ 1.0 10.0 0.75-250-350kg 0.8 8.0 0.6-200-250kg 0.7 7.0 0.5-calves 0.3 4.0 0.3EWES 0.15 2.0 0.15Table 4: The minimum forage requirements for dairy short time but these cases respond well to earlycows , suckler cows and store cattle treatment. Some outbreaks may affect up to 50% of animals. Livestock fed big bale silage through round Minimum Minimum feeders are more likely to contract eye infections fresh Silage hay/straw (kg/day) (kg/day) through contact with infected particles on the long chop silage. Wet weather and poor ground conditions,Dairy cow 23 5.5 leading to soil contamination and poor quality forage,(giving 30 litres/day) (4.1t)(1) (1t)(1) can also cause problems such as fungal and bacterial abortion and occasionally botulism (especially if poultrySuckler cow 11 2.5 litter has been spread on fields).(600kg dry cow) (2t)(1) (0.5t)(1) Where silage is of poor quality supplementary feedsStore cattle 9 2 will be necessary to meet performance targets. In(300-400kg) (1.6t)(1) (0.4t)(1) some cases, performance targets may need to be reduced.Table 2: Quantity of forage in large balesForage Large round Equivalent Large square Equivalent Bales number of small bales number of small rectangular bales per (2.5x0.9x1.2m) rectangular large bale. weight (kg) bales per large baleSilage -unchopped 450 - 500(1) - 770 -Silage - chopped 600 - 700(1) - - -Wheat straw unchopped(2) 220 15 250 17Wheat straw chopped 230 15 - -Hay 275 14 400 20Page 30
  31. 31. McHale WrapperProduction costs Table A. Est. Bale production per hectareThere is a perception that the baled silage (25 tonne/ha crop @ 18% DM)conservation system is expensive relative to Grass Dry Matter % at balingclamp silage. However this opinion is inaccurateif all costs are considered. Estimates of the Bale weight (kgs) 18 25 35comparative costs of big bale and conventional Number of bales per hectareclamp silage over 3 cuts have been carried out at 400 - - 32Greenmount College and the Agricultural 500 - 36 25Research Institute of Northern Ireland (Table 7). 600 41 30 21 700 35 35 18The results show little difference in the cost of 800 31 22 -producing grass silage (£/tonne Dry Matter) using 900 27 - -either a clamp silo or big bales. Bale weight can Source: Teagasc, Grangehave a major bearing on the cost of production.Research has also shown that although a highercost per bale is incurred for chopped bales, fewerbales are produced and costs are reduced.The importance of Dry Matter (DM) levels andthe impact it has on bale numbers is clearly Table B. Comparative costs of big bale anddemonstrated by research work by Teagasc at conventional grass silageGrange, Co. Meath, Ireland. Conventional Big baleThe costs of feeding baled or clamp silage will silage silagevary between farms. Each system has its meritsand farmers can decide for themselves which Cash costsystem is the most suitable for their (£/tonne DM) 52 51circumstances. Full economic cost*extract from Dept of Agriculture & Rural Development (£/tonne DM) 84 85(DARDNI) publication on Winter Feeding. Source: Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (N. Ireland) Page 31