LINCOLN, Neb. — Making good silage includes many factors. Are you prepared to address the critical control points?
The time and money spent on chopping silage for feed does not go unnoticed. Harvest time, moisture, processing, chop length, pack density and fermentation efficiency all contribute to the preservation of the nutrients that have been grown all summer.
The correct packing density is one of the most overlooked pieces of the process. A good density goal is to have 14 lb. of dry matter per cubic foot. Pack only a four- to six-inch layer at a time and have proper tractor weight.
The 800 rule can be used to determine how fast a tractor can pack based on weight. Take the weight of the tractor and divide by 800. That will give a how many tons per hour a tractor can pack to have a good density. For example, if the tractor weights 32,000 and we divide by 800, resulting in 40 tons per hour that tractor can pack. The speed of chopping should be determined by the packing speed, not the silage chopper.
The next item is to cover the pile. Even after the silage is packed correctly, air and water can penetrate the outer layers and severely damage the quality and quantity of silage. Additionally, molds, mycotoxins and fungi have a prime place to grow in uncovered silage.
Many studies at Kansas State University have reported a from 3% to 40% loss in dry matter from the top three feet of silage in uncovered silage bunkers compared to covered. Covering with plastic will give about an 8:1 return on investment for the producer.
Silage should be covered as soon as possible with plastic. The standard plastic is still the black and white sided 6mil sheeting. Make sure the edges are sealed and the top has plenty of weight on it.
A good pack and a good cover can reduce losses, increase profit and be safer when facing the pile.
— Brad Schick, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln