Covering and sealing freshly chopped forage saves producers money, nutrients and dry matter (DM), and improves the hygienic quality of the feed, so that less digestive upsets and health issues occur. When producers add up the savings, the ‘cost’ of covering becomes a valuable investment!
Here are five key tips for successfully covering your silage to get the maximum ROI:
- Cover the whole silage surface as soon as possible after filing, to help create the anaerobic environment required to start the ensiling fermentation.
- Don’t skimp on plastic thickness or quality. The extra expense will be returned several times over in improved DM recovery and silage quality. Use plastic that is at least five millimeters thick and dual layer — black inner and white outer — to resist deterioration. Also consider using plastic film with an increased oxygen barrier.
- Cover the entire slope in front of the bunker or around the drive-over pile with plastic when filling is complete to help prevent spoilage in these harder to pack areas.
- Be sure there is sufficient weight along the edges to keep the plastic in place and prevent air infiltration. Overlap the seams of two different sheets of plastic by at least one to two meters. Weight down the entire cover, e.g. with tires and/ or gravel bags.
- Inspect covers on a regular basis for tears or damage and repair immediately. Protective tarps are available, use of which will help prevent cover damage due to birds, rodents and weather, e.g. hail.
Effectively covering and sealing silage, and making sure the cover is well maintained, helps prevent oxygen ingress, which is the No. 1 enemy of high-quality silage.