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Forage and Nutrition
Guide 2018
Creating the best silage bale
Good bales increase the bottom line for your business whether you are a
farmer or a contractor and the best quality silage starts with the best bale
The process begins by using a net that is strong enough to
hold the densest bale. But, more importantly, the net must
cover the bale entirely, for a number of very good reasons.
A round bale has only two uses: dry bedding or high-value
cattle food, nothing more! It is obvious that dry straw is
essential for good quality bedding, so full bale coverage and
strength are essential for this. Silage bales need even more
care and consideration.
Better quality silage comes from eliminating the air in the
bale before wrapping, and then keeping it that way. Dense,
often chopped, forage produces the best environment for
good fermentation, but chopped bales need a strong net to
maintain the bale's integrity, as a shorter crop makes a less
stable bale during binding.
Making a bale without `shoulders' is critical in continuing
the process of good silage making. If the net does not cover
the bale edges, you are very quickly on the road to wasting
valuable forage. If the bale does not have well shaped,
almost `square' edges, the film covering the bale will
immediately trap air within this exposed bale edge. This is
the first step to forage loss. Next, there is a high possibility
that any stalks within the exposed bale edges will puncture
the film, allowing more air inside, adding to the already
trapped air in the `shoulder'. Fermentation is compromised,
moulds begin to form, and forage quality declines, reducing
the feed value of the bale, so affecting milk yield per tonne
of crop fed.
The problem can get worse, as exposed bale edges don't
provide uniform profile as the film is pulled around the bale
edge, during wrapping.
This creates an un-even bale profile that doesn't allow the
film layers to stick flat to each other, leaving small `pockets'
in the undulations on the wrapped bale edges. Over time,
these `pockets' will collect water, which will seep between
film layers, separating them and allowing air to penetrate
into the bale, so further reducing the forage quality. All
of the major baler original equipment manufacturers
(OEM) understand the importance of a well-covered
bale, to increase forage quality during wrapping and crop
Author: Graham Robson
European technical manager, Tama