Taking Charge of Baled Silage

Jul 29, 2021

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Attention to detail is key to making great quality hay. Throughout the hay-making process, reducing dry matter yield losses and conserving forage quality is key for optimal hay production. During baling, there are a few important factors to take into account to help ensure success when it comes to harvesting hay with your operations’ goals in mind. .

Baled silage, or baleage, is a highly nutritious livestock feed and can help producers better manage their harvest window and harvest their crop at its optimum quality. Baleage is forage harvested at a higher moisture than dry hay, and it is then wrapped in polyurethane plastic to eliminate oxygen so that anaerobic fermentation takes place. This phase converts available sugars to acids, preserving the forage and improving the nutritional value and palatability of the crop.

Silage bales beat dry hay

Silage bales have advantages over dry hay, but best management practices are in order.

First, bale silage at a higher moisture level than dry hay. This accomplishes two goals:

It gets forage off the field quickly at its optimal nutritional quality because it shortens the time needed for field curing after mowing and before baling. This is especially helpful during unpredictable or exceptionally wet weather.
It gives you more feed to work with. Forage baled as silage has less leaf and dry matter loss compared to forage that is harvested as dry hay, which undergoes more mechanical harvesting processes to ensure drydown.

Take the steps needed to ensure your baled silage will be of higher quality than dry hay. The optimal moisture for baling forage as silage ranges between 45% and 60%. Baling forage at this higher moisture helps preserve dry matter yield because every day of delay after mowing and before baling can result in a 5% to 6% yield loss, depending on weather conditions. We all know getting hay dried down to an ideal moisture for dry hay can be tough when the weather is off. This shorter harvest process can provide a nutritional edge for your livestock. It lets you harvest at a more ideal stage of maturity than if you were simply “making hay while the sun shines.” This is important because as forages mature, the quality generally declines.

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