Harvest and store for successful silage

Harvest and store for successful silage

Beef
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Making silage is quite unique in that there are many options for harvesting and many options for storage.

Local Land Service and NSW DPI are collaborating to bring farmers a series of webinars on silage: and in the third of four presentations John Piltz was addressing the issues involved in harvesting and storage.

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Forage wagon in operation: The range of silage harvesting equipment is large and there use depends upon personal preference. Photo: Farmonline

Forage wagon in operation: The range of silage harvesting equipment is large and there use depends upon personal preference. Photo: Farmonline

Mr Piltz is a livestock research officer (NSW DPI) and adjunct Research Associate (CSU) and he has worked in forage conservation and ruminant nutrition research since graduating from University of NSW in 1982.

He started by bringing to farmers attention the excellent manual 'Successful Silage' available online: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/294053/successful-silage-topfodder.pdf

"Making silage is quite unique in that there are many options for harvesting and many options for storage," he said.

"And a range of reasons why you might have losses or storage problems."

Mr Piltz identified a number of different types of equipment used to harvest and assist with storing forage as silage: and their use depends upon the individual farmers preference and availability of labour or contractors.

"Chopped silage is the traditional method, but increasingly people are using balers, both round and square and particularly in Australia it has become very popular and quite common," he said.

"I attribute that to the fact that people often have the equipment to handle bales silage because they are used to handling hay."

Already having some equipment Mr Piltz said makes it easier for farmers to get into the silage production system.

Just as important is the need to store your silage so it will preserve as much nutrient for future availablity as possible.

"If you have gone to the trouble to make the silage, sealing it properly so it won't spoil is critical," he said.

"With pits, avoid areas with potential for ground water seeping in to the silage by ensuring the base has a slope to let water flow away."

Bagged silage correctly stored on its end is a common site on Australian farms. Photo: NSW DPI

Bagged silage correctly stored on its end is a common site on Australian farms. Photo: NSW DPI

Above ground nodules are suitable for short term storage than pits: and with new plastic and covering options they are effective in storing silage as a part of a regular feeding regime.

"But it does mean you have to be extremely vigilant to patch any holes in the plastic," he said.

"And it is relatively difficult to exclude all air so it is advisable to store small modules which can be fed out quickly."

Mr Piltz further pointed out recommended module sizes are declining with the latest suggestion having ten days or even less of feed stored.

"Bales stored in pits work really well and it is advisable to store them half a bale higher than the surrounding ground when you first start because they will slump somewhat and you don't want to end up with a hollow to allow water to pool," he said.

"If needed fill it up with more dirt so it's mounded and sheds water."

Losses during storage are inevitable, and Mr Plitz said farmers can take many steps to reduce the loss of nutrients.

"There will be some air present at the time of storage but if the dry matter is above 30 percent it shouldn't be an issue," he said.

"Losses can be minimised by excluding as much air as possible, avoid bringing mud inot the silage pit and cover the pit overnight during filling."

Mr Litz said the greater density you can achieve in your silage, the slower the air penetration with lower spoilage and greater capacity within the storage area.

"If you have gone to all the trouble to make good silage, seal your storage properly so it will not spoil," he said.

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