Now that I’m feeding silage, how do I minimise waste?

Silage is the number one feed on the majority of farms over the winter period. Farmers feeding silage need to ensure it is of good quality as this can negatively impact the health and the performance of a herd – whether it be fed to dairy or beef animals.

In recent weeks, farmers have opened silage pits and began feeding bales. This year, given the hot weather experienced during the summer months, some farmers may experience the pit face ‘heating’ rapidly.

This could be due to the extremely dry conditions that the silage was made in. It can also lead to the formation of mould (mycotoxins) which are harmful to animals when consumed.

Mycotoxins can lead to: reduced intakes; high somatic cell counts; abortion; and infertility just to name a few.

However, a mycotoxin binder can be used. This binds to the toxin and helps it pass through the animal without affecting it. But, feeding ‘mouldy’ silage to stock should be avoided.

In addition, some farmers may be facing a silage deficit or running tight, so every effort should be made to minimise spoilage and waste.

There are many practices which the farmer can implement to avoid the aerobic deterioration of silage, including good pit-face management.

Pit-face management

The idea is to limit the amount of silage exposed to the air. So, where possible, a shear grab should be used. This will help minimise the aerobic deterioration at the face of the pit.

Again, where possible, farmers should feed bales first and avoid opening silage pits until farmers can move across the pit face quickly; progressing too slowly across the pit face will lead to spoilage.

fodder shortage

The face of the pit should be straight, neat and tidy; any fallen silage from pit face or shear grab should be gathered up and fed to stock.

When it comes to moving the plastic cover back, care should be taken not to move the cover too far back on top of the pit – keeping it tight on top and on both sides will help reduce waste.

Ideally, stock needs to be consuming fresh silage every day. It is important that blocks cut from the silage pit face be left in front of stock in the same condition as they were taken from the pit face – breaking up the silage should be avoided.

The feeding area should be kept clean and free from waste silage. In addition, any farmer that uses feeds such as brewers grain should store this in longer, narrower pits which will allow the farmer to move through the pit a lot quicker.