The fodder crisis has brought into focus the absolute hit-and-miss nature of buying baled silage.

It’s impossible to gauge the quality of the forage below the plastic wrapping. And, once the bale is open, it cannot be sent back.

Making one’s own bales and subsequently feeding them is an entirely different issue. The farmer knows the quality of the grass that was initially ensiled and how the bales were stored.

None of these factors come into play if it’s a case of buying bales around the country.

It really is a case of hit and miss when it comes to determining the quality of the forage.

As it turns out, the quality of baled silage can be excellent – provided the grass was cut at the correct stage of growth and the baling process met the highest standards.

The range of bale weights is also enormous.

Some can weigh up to a tonne; others may only be half this weight. But this factor very rarely comes into play when it comes to buying baled silage.

A bale, is a bale, is a bale.

If bales are to be bought, then the earlier in the season this is done the better.

At least the buyer would then have a fair degree of control over how the bales are stacked in the run-up to the feeding season.

Bales also tend to be cheaper during the summer months. This is also a time of year when the buyer would have a better chance of seeing how the bales were made; as the opportunity of drawing them directly from the field in which they were made may present itself.

But even this doesn’t tell the whole story.

The cost of baled silage will always be higher than fodder that is taken from a clamp. However, in the latter instance the purchaser will always see, at first hand, the quality of the forage that is drawn home.

The days are over when farmers can reassure themselves that buying a few bales will get them over the winter, should home produced fodder stocks not suffice.

Over the past decade, almost every second winter has thrown up one form of fodder crisis or another. And when supplies get tight, it’s then that farmers find themselves spending silly money for baled silage – a lot of which turns out to be of very dubious quality.

Surely, all of this brings home the absolute necessity for every farmer to be totally self-sufficient when it comes to accessing winter fodder stocks.