Silage contributes between 25% and 40% of the annual diet of beef and dairy animals, depending on length of housing, with over two thirds of Irish farmers making silage bales.
When making bales, it is important to mow when grass is dry and easier to preserve. Ideally, cut grass in the afternoon when sugars are highest.
Monitor the weather forecasts and try to mow during a spell of dry, sunny weather.
Dense and well-shaped
Wilt to improve preservation and reduce effluent production. This also has the added benefit of reducing the number of bales per acre, thus reducing costs in the long run.
If the grass crop is heavy or drying conditions are limited, use the spreading/tedding option.
Spreading maximises the quantity of grass exposed to the sun and air, while the extent of ground cover following sward treatment has the biggest effect on drying rate.
Aim to produce dense, well-shaped bales. Try to ensure that the sward is at full width when entering the mouth of the baler.
Well-shaped silage bales are easier to wrap properly and handle without causing damage.
Silage bale wrapping
Aim to wrap bales within two to three hours after baling, and ensure adequate plastic film is used.
Wrap a minimum of four layers of film; however, six layers of film may result in less moulding and a longer shelf life.
The colour of the plastic should have no effect on baled silage quality however, black seems to be preferred option on most Irish farms today.
Ideally, transport your bales to the storage area and wrap them there. Unfortunately, this is often not practical on many farms.
Move field-wrapped bales to a storage area immediately. This will reduce the risk of bird damage in the field and will also allow for more efficient and simpler handling of the bale.
Many farmers draw/paint their bales in a bid to repel the threat of bird damage, but quick removal is the best option.
Silage bale storage
Store wrapped bales on a level, smooth, hard surface with good access, so that the bales can be easily retrieved.
Remove bushes, briars and low overhanging branches. Under Cross Compliance Regulations, bales cannot be stored within 20m of a waterbody or watercourse.
Fence-off bales from all livestock and wildlife; many farmers use a combination of netting and tyres to protect their bales from bird attacks.
Farmers storing arable silage may need to have rat bait points in the storage area and must comply with all relevant regulations.
Inspect bales regularly and any damage should be immediately repaired using appropriate adhesive tapes. Noticing holes at time of feeding is a little late.