Feed value of forage drops from the moment that it is cut until the moment it reaches its stable pH and anaerobic environment.
The use of the Sil-All range of silage inoculants enhances the speed of fermentation, maintains the maximum level of digestibility and dry matter. However, in order to achieve the best results the use of Sil-All has to be coupled with the best ensiling and feed out management practices.
1. Prepare the bunker
Empty and clean the bunker and make any repairs that are necessary to the walls to stop air entry into the silage during storage. Sufficient time must be left to allow new concrete to ‘cure’. If there were heating or mold issues in the previous year, the bunker should be disinfected to reduce this year’s losses.
2. Plan the harvest
Talk to your contractor about the maturity of the forage and plan the harvesting date and required staff. If foraging yourself, ensure all equipment is maintained, knives are sharp and the applicator is clean and calibrated. Monitor the maturity of the growing forage on a regular basis and update your contractor on expected harvest date changes.
3. Don’t forget plastic sheeting
Order the top plastic, side plastic (if walls are uneven / damaged) and your Sil-All 4X4+. Various plastics are available – standard plastic, vacuum plastic and oxygen barrier plastic. The latter reduce the top spoilage and feed losses in the bunker during fermentation and storage, with oxygen barrier plastic being the most effective.
4. Cut at the right time & height
Harvest at the appropriate time for the forage. Cut grass / lucerne at a minimum of 5cm from the ground, small grains at a minimum of 7.5cm and corn at a minimum of 20cm (higher cut heights reduce lignin, improve fermentation, reduce ensiling losses and better maintain digestibility / milk potential of the forage). Cut on a dry, sunny day for maximum sugar and leave in a wide swath.
5. Use appropriate chop length
Corn chop length should be approximately 7 – 12mm depending on dry matter. Grass should be 2 – 5cm and lucerne 3 – 10cm. If baling, use a ‘chopped baler’ as this produces a faster fermentation with lower losses than in unchopped bales.
6. Wilt rapidly
Aim to cut and collect the forage within 24 hours if possible. Tedding (raking) the grass / lucerne will speed up the rate of wilting (drying), concentrate sugars and reduce the field dry matter and digestibility losses, helping to produce high quality silage.
7. Don’t neglect compaction
Spread the forage in thin layers in the bunker and constantly compact (layers no deeper than 20cm). Avoid using double wheels on the tractor and use a machine with the greatest weight per cm2 to get the maximum forage density (remove the most air). Compact for 2 hours after the last load of the day.
8. Cover for the night
If the bunker is being filled over more than 1 day, pull the plastic over the top of the bunker overnight to stop air entering the fermenting forage. Always add fresh forage to the bunker the following day before starting to compact again otherwise carbon dioxide that has already been formed is squeezed out, air is drawn back in and the fermentation slowed.
9. Seal well
Once filling is complete the bunker should be rolled for 2 more hours and the covering sheets immediately applied and sealed at the edges to ensure an airtight seal. The ballast must be substantial and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Gravel bags (easier to handle and less sensitive to frost than sand) should be preferred to used tyres.
10. Observe good feed-out practices
Management of air at feed out is crucial to ensure the quality of the silage. Feed out should be made with a block cutter or a defacer in order to maintain silage density and quality. Loosening the silage face should be avoided as this allows air entry into the silage which leads to yeast growth and heating of the silage.