Groundhog Day has come and gone, and now we anticipate the arrival of spring – in some areas earlier than others, of course. As spring approaches, the anticipation of forage harvest arrives. Thus, now is the time to evaluate your storage for the hay crop silage:
- If bunker silos are used, it’s time to order plastic and evaluate the need for additional materials for weighing down the plastic. If additional tires will be needed, now is the time to obtain them and slice them. Maximizing packing density will increase storage capacity and reduce fermentation losses. Will there need to be a change in packing equipment to improve this on your farm?
- If upright silos are used, do the unloaders need repair or servicing? If the unloaders are in need of replacement, is it time to change to a bunker or the use of bags? Do the silo structures, especially the doors, need repair?
- If bags are used, does there need to be a change in the slope to improve drainage and is additional stone needed to provide a solid surface for improving the removal of silage from the bags? The freeze and thaw during the winter may necessitate additional stone now.
- Regardless of storage structure, has the feeding program or herd structure changed whereby additional storage of hay crop forage is needed? If so, construction needs to begin.
The key to maintaining quality silage during storage is harvesting at the proper stage of maturity and moisture, fast filling, firm packing, and sealing the structure. During feedout, spoilage on the silage surface and shrink (wastage) during the removal of silage from the storage structure need to be minimized. Based on current hay prices, alfalfa forage is selling for $0.15 to 0.20/lb dry matter. Adequate storage of hay crop feed to maintain quality and minimize spoilage is critical to the profitability of the farm.
Maurice L. Eastridge is a professor and extension dairy specialist with The Ohio State University.