Rules to look af­ter si­lage and en­vi­ron­ment

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - HAY & SILAGE FEATURE -

If some si­lage mak­ing rules are bent or bro­ken, it can of­ten af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment, whether it be con­tam­i­nat­ing the soil, pro­duc­ing ef­flu­ent and run-off, re­leas­ing volatile gases into the at­mos­phere or blow­ing plas­tic into the next door neigh­bour’s prop­erty or into town.

1. Cut ear­lier than later: If for­age is cut early in the sea­son and at or near early canopy clo­sure, th­ese pad­docks will usu­ally not miss a ro­ta­tion. The si­lage will have very high nu­tri­tive value and be very palat­able to stock, pro­vid­ing it is not af­fected by rain or dirt or left on the ground for too long. Pad­docks will re­cover very quickly and densely, just as if they had been grazed.

Great for the en­vi­ron­ment as po­ten­tially heavy rains will not hit veg­e­ta­tive pas­tures with good leafy cover and less in­cli­na­tion for soil be­ing washed out of the pad­dock and no si­lage left on the ground to rot.

For­age cut three to five weeks later will be less nu­tri­tious, more bulky due to in­creased fi­bre in the stems and pas­tures will be much slower to re­cover with less den­sity. Open pas­tures are vul­ner­a­ble to soil and nu­tri­ent loss in heavy rains and sum­mer weeds just love bare ground.

2. Har­vest in the cor­rect dry mat­ter range: Stack si­lage should be har­vested in the thirty to thirty five per cent dry mat­ter (DM) range and baled si­lage in the forty to fifty per cent range. If ei­ther is be­low th­ese ranges a poorer fer­men­ta­tion oc­curs, of­ten with en­vi­ron­men­tally un­friendly ef­flu­ent be­ing pro­duced. In ad­di­tion there are losses in DM and qual­ity of the for­age dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion but it also re­leases more detri­men­tal gases to the at­mos­phere and un­pleas­ant odours.

Si­lage ad­di­tives ap­plied at the pick-up are very ben­e­fi­cial in for­age which is be­ing en­siled at just un­der the de­sired DM con­tents men­tioned above. This could be due to un­forseen rain or a heavy crop.

Har­vest­ing for­age above their re­spec­tive ranges will of­ten re­sult in mould and yeast growth in the si­lage due to too much air be­ing en­trapped be­tween the dry ma­te­rial. This of­ten re­sults in spoiled si­lage ei­ther left at the stack or in the pad­dock, even­tu­ally break­ing down with gases of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion en­ter­ing the air.

3. Har­vest within one to two days: Once mown, pas­tures con­tinue to respire or ‘live’ so its nu­tri­tive value starts to de­cline. This re­duc­tion in qual­ity in­creases sub­stan­tially from day three on­wards.

So use a ted­der soon af­ter mow­ing or a mower-con­di­tioner to in­crease the rate of wilt­ing.

Ob­vi­ously our ear­lier cut for­age is more nu­tri­tious so it will be rel­a­tively higher in value af­ter three to four days com­pared to later cut for­age. How­ever, more si­lage of lower qual­ity will need to be eaten to achieve the same pro­duc­tion as higher qual­ity si­lage and re­sult in more poop and pid­dle in the pad­dock, yards and laneways con­tribut­ing to heav­ier loads in the ef­flu­ent sys­tem.

4. Seal quickly and air­tight: Stacks should be sealed air­tight as soon as har­vest­ing is com­pleted. The rolling trac­tor(s) should have been keep­ing up with for­age de­liv­ery. If har­vest com­ple­tion is later in the night, do the fi­nal roll then drag on the plas­tic and place tyres, sausage bags or soil around the perime­ter to min­imise or prefer­ably, pre­vent air en­ter­ing overnight.

Rolling the next day just pushes more air into the stack.

Many stacks are cov­ered but not sealed air­tight. Mould un­der the plas­tic sheet in­di­cates poor seal­ing.

Baled si­lage should have the stretch wrap plas­tic ap­plied at bal­ing and no later than one to two hours. The bales must be cov­ered with at least four lay­ers of film, prefer­ably six at the cor­rect pre-stretch (55 per cent or 70 per cent) and with fifty per cent over­lap.

No win­dows should be vis­i­ble as oxy­gen will in­fil­trate much quicker than with four lay­ers, lead­ing to mould growth, gas pro­duc­tion, spoiled si­lage, etc.

De­vel­op­ment by man­u­fac­tur­ers of stretch wrap film con­tin­ues to im­prove the qual­ity of the films, the lat­est be­ing oxy­gen bar­rier film be­ing in­te­grated into stretch wrap film. Th­ese lat­est films pro­vide a bet­ter and tighter seal on the bale, re­duc­ing the ex­tent of oxy­gen per­me­at­ing into the bale.

5. Reg­u­larly in­spect si­lage stor­ages dam­age: Reg­u­larly in­spect your si­lage stacks and bales for dam­age and re­pair as soon as pos­si­ble. It is very handy to have a roll of si­lage spe­cific tape in the ute, mule or four wheel bike so there are no ex­cuses.

If holes are no­ticed­clean the area around the hole, wipe dry if wet and use a sim­i­lar colour tape to the holed plas­tic. Avoid patch­ing if the plas­tic is hot. Dark and light coloured plas­tic will heat and cool at dif­fer­ent rates.

A ma­jor down­fall on many farms is that holes, caused by many means, are not re­paired quickly enough, if at all. This leads to yeast and mould growth, un­de­sir­able gases hit the air­ways and in wet­ter silages or if drier silages de­com­pose over enough time, pol­lut­ing ef­flu­ent will be pro­duced.

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