Baled silage can be considered under the right circumstances.
Baleage, baled silage, is forage baled at a higher moisture and then wrapped with plastic to create an anaerobic environment to ferment and ensile the high moisture forage.
Spring rains result in challenging conditions to make quality dry hay.
Making hay at higher moisture allows baling closer to cutting and shortens the window of dry weather needed to get hay up. It also leads to less leaf loss, less nutrient leaching, and that makes for better quality hay. Wrapping bales also leads to less storage loss.
Waiting on dry weather can also impact forage quality and productions. As forage continues to grow and mature, the quality will decline. When producing dry hay, often times traffic is still an issue on fields as much as 5 days after cutting. This can decrease yields for the next cutting. Baleage allows for a quick on and off of the field, which is ideal for alfalfa fields.
Timing is crucial in making baleage.
Cutting the forage in the afternoon is recommended, as the sugars will be the highest in the plant during the afternoon. Baling should occur with a target of 50% moisture in the bale. The targeted range should be no more or less than 40% to 60% moisture. When bale moisture gets on either side of that range, fermentation patterns will be poor. Bales too dry could mold and pose higher risk of clostridium botulism and listeria. Bales too wet could result in high butyric acid, seepage, and more spoilage at feedout.
Proper wrapping is very important.
If the wrap is too thin, torn, or not quality plastic, baleage will be sub-par. Baleage is only as good as the integrity of the plastic. Using net wrap will provide a smooth surface to wrap with less opportunity for air pockets or the plastic to be poked through.
Pay careful attention to storage.
Storage of baleage needs to be in an area that can be monitored for rodents, raccoons, and birds. Anything that tears plastic or compromises the anaerobic environment can result in ruined baleage. Storing bales close to where they will be fed is wise. Moving bales after wrapping can be difficult. Spearing the bales or poking holes in the plastic will negatively impact the baleage. Bale grabbers that do not compromise the plastic is important if moving the bales prior to feeding.
These tips will improve your success in using baleage.
- Monitor bale size. Large bales can weigh too much and be difficult to handle.
- If using a tubeline wrapper, uniform bale size will help eliminate air pockets in the tubeline.
- For balers with knives, think about removing half of the knives to improve bale integrity and limit bales that “blow apart” once opening
- Bale density is important to aiding a quick fermentation and maintain stable pH at feedout.
- Use inoculants. Especially following a frost or in drier weather.
- Avoid dirt and manure contamination. Listeria and Clostriduim can be an issue and cause serious risk to animal health.
- Monitor and maintain integrity of the plastic at all times during storage. Rodent control is likely needed.
- Don’t short the layers of wrap needed to get a good seal.
- When doing a feed inventory or selling hay, remember half of the bale is water. Dry hay is only 15% moisture