Silage - Waste Not, Want Not
Type Media Article
By Anthony O'Connor, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit
On the majority of Irish farms, grass silage is the main source of winter fodder. Being the year that it is, silage is being fed on numerous farms since late September! Silage stocks may become scarce on farms as the winter progresses. Aim to avoid silage losses during housing period. The key here is to minimise aerobic deterioration of silage at any time. Waste not, want not.
At Silage Pit Face:
- Ensure Shear Grab is well maintained, in perfect working order with good hydraulic pressure. Blades to be kept sharpened, tines need to be secure and steady. Regular maintenance is needed.
- Use any silage or silage bales left over from last year first. Ensure there are no moulds on silage. Dump any bales with excessive moulds.
- Use any baled silage on farm first for housed stock. Avoid opening silage pits until there is enough stock in sheds to move across the entire face of the pit when removing a full line of silage blocks. Moving too slowly across the pit face will lead to aerobic deterioration of silage across the pit face.
- Keep silage pit face straight, neat and tidy when cutting out blocks. This will help reduce aerobic deterioration. Any fallen silage from pit face or shear grab should be gathered up with a silage fork and fed to stock. This needs to be carried out after every use of the shear grab.
- Avoid rolling back the cover too much on top of pit, just roll back enough for one line of blocks to be taken.
- Again, keep rolled back cover tight on top of pit and on both sides.
Any purchased bales or bales from last year should be used first. The bale cover and netting needs to be completely removed from the silage bale before bringing it to the feeding area. Any loose silage caught in netting needs to be removed and then brought to feeding area. Likewise any fallen silage from bale or bale handler should be gathered up and fed on the day.
Silage in Sheds:
Ideally, stock need to be consuming fresh silage every day, with fodder in front of them at all times. It is important that blocks cut from silage pit face be left in front of stock in the same condition as they were cut from pit face. - Do not break up block or bale.
Ensure floor area is dry, clean and clear of old waste silage. Remove dock stalks etc before placing block or bale there. The feeding area should be cleared of waste silage at least once a week.
Best suggested practice with silage blocks is to cut block from pit face, transport it to the shed, leave on floor area where required. It can be pushed in with the next incoming block on the shear grab. This reduces aerobic deterioration of silage in blocks or bales. It is important to limit the amount of silage exposed to the air.
Reducing Silage Wastage in Sheds:
- If filling shed with silage, only bring enough for 5 to 7 days at most, pushing the silage in when required. Alternatively, silage bales or blocks can be bought in whenever stocks are short.
- Try not to place block or bales too close to stub walls, stock may have difficulty reaching it and pulling it in to their mouths.
- Likewise, keep bales or blocks away from entrance and rear doors of sheds, rain may be blown in. Stock will not consume wet silage. Also, silage may be pushed out under doors by cattle's snouts. Avoid placing blocks or bales too close to water bowls on stub walls at girders. Cattle lapping water will splash water onto the silage.
Keep an eye on the amount of silage being used as the winter progresses. If you think you are going to be short, then organise a plan to stretch silage stocks by limiting some animals' intake. Weanlings, stores can be restricted; they will recover any weight loss in summer next year through compensatory growth. However, suckler cows need to have fodder in front of them at all times. Restricting cow's intake could lead to problems at calving time and cows returning to heat post calving.