Seven-layer silage sheets: Just how far must you go for your silage?

Plastic sheeting brand Visqueen recently ‘rolled out’ its newest development in its silage cover range – in the form of ‘seven-layer technology’ silage sheets.

Moving on from the five-layer technology sheets introduced almost a decade ago, Visqueen has gone a step further, combining seven individual layers into one “uniquely strong yet versatile and lightweight film structure”.

The claimed advantage is that specific layers can be designed to deliver certain key attributes during manufacture, in turn giving “enhanced levels of tear resistance, puncture resistance, UV protection and overall sheet strength”.

Simultaneously, the sheeting is designed to be lighter and a more consistent oxygen barrier, among other things.

The real question is whether these advantages outweigh the disadvantages, namely the likely higher cost of such sheeting. Does the Visqueen sheeting save money in the long-run, to justify using it over cheaper plastic that is thought to do the very same job?

Under commercial silage-making conditions in Britain, it is reported that total dry matter (DM) losses of 25% can be anticipated over the course of going from the field to the feeder, while in-silo losses of 5-18% are usual.

This is comparable with pit (clamp) silage made in Ireland according to research by Teagasc and AFBI (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute).

Reducing DM losses at harvest and feed-out is often omitted as a method of potentially improving silage value. High losses can considerably increase the cost per tonne of silage fed, as well as increase the likelihood of needing more expensive alternative feed.

seven-layer

According to Teagasc research, first-cut grass silage costs approximately €130/t of DM utilised while second-cut grass silage amounts to approximately €150/t. This puts costs into perspective, emphasizing the need to be as efficient as possible while feeding.

As a result, it is vital that such losses are kept to an absolute minimum. The Visqueen seven-layer sheet, if it lives up to expectations, could potentially prevent some of these losses through better preservation of the silage in the clamp – or so the manufacturer claims.

Whether the extra layers are needed or are of any benefit is up for debate. Like everything in life, there is a happy medium.