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?”

About jenreesources

I'm the Crops and Water Extension Educator for York and Seward counties in Nebraska with a focus in irrigated crop production and plant pathology.

Posted on July 30, 2012, in Crop Updates, Drought and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Poor silage fermentation is the biggest wastage factor on farms. I am not sure about putting manure on cows feed though. Tire to tire after rolling in layers and covering straight away will give excellent results. If the forage is dry fine copping to shorter lengths can help fermentation.

    I get my farmers to think about what they want to get from their ensiling process- milk in the vat and/or meat on the bum is usually their answer and they will only get that by feeding a high quality feed from good ensiling practices.

    • Thanks for the comment and just wanted to clarify regarding the manure. I checked with Dr. Bruce Anderson and will clarify in the blog post as well. He wasn’t trying to say to put manure directly on the silage. He was saying to use manure as a weight to cover the plastic is a good way to help maintain quality as air bubbles can occur in the middles of tires when placed on the plastic which can reduce quality in those areas. So he was saying their research showed if something with weight could completely cover the silage pile keeping down any air gaps, that quality is maintained even better (although tires are still fine to use). He also said that research in the past 30 years has shown no adverse effects on the cattle or any negative feeding of the cattle towards the silage when small amounts of manure got mixed into the silage from maintaining the silage piles this way.

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