Drought-Maintaining Silage Quality
Unfortunately the drought continues to intensify. All Nebraska counties have now been released for haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands. Information and resources continue to be added to UNL Extension’s Drought Resource page at http://droughtresources.unl.edu. Please check it out for drought information for livestock, crops, water, and gardening.
Some have started chopping corn for silage or are about to soon. Dr. Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist, shares the following information about maintaining silage quality in the future. “After silage has been chopped and piled and packed correctly, it still can be damaged seriously by air and moisture slowly penetrating the outer 3 to 4 feet. Animals often eat less when fed moldy silage and can even experience health problems due to mycotoxins.
Good, well-eared silage can lose over 20% percent of its feed value from fermentation and spoilage under normal conditions. Silage made from corn with little or no grain might have even greater losses. This loss can be cut in half or even more if the silage is kept well covered by plastic.
Cover freshly chopped silage with black plastic immediately after you finish filling the trench, bunker, or pile. Then cover the plastic with something to help hold it down. Old tires are readily available and do a good job of keeping the plastic from blowing away, but they only keep keep pressure on the silage directly under the tire. In between the tires, air can circulate and cause spoilage.
An even better choice would be a solid cover over the plastic, something like freshly chopped forage or weeds or maybe even a 3- to 4-inch layer of manure. This would ensure that the entire surface of silage is fully protected to reduce the chance for air bubbles to form under the plastic which could reduce silage quality. You go to a lot of time and expense to make good silage. Isn’t it worth it to protect that investment?”