Madison, Wis. [July 16, 2012] – Preserving every pound of ensiled forage is always important, but severe drought conditions in many parts of the country mean proper ensiling is of utmost importance this year.
According to Keith Bolsen, professor emeritus at Kansas State University, about 20 percent of the corn silage each year is lost to shrink. This loss comes at a cost of more than $1.3 billion to livestock producers.
“In a year where we are facing the possibility of significantly less forage, it becomes paramount that farmers take every precaution necessary to reduce silage dry matter losses,” says Bolsen.
Bolsen suggests that producers consider the following four steps:
1. Shape the drive-over pile using a three to one ratio. For every vertical foot, there should be three feet of horizontal on the back, front and each side. The pile should be packed from back to front and side-to-side.
2. Select the right number of tractors to achieve optimal packing density. Corn silage density should be 15 to 16 pounds of dry matter and 44 to 48 pounds of fresh weight per cubic foot. Silages with higher packing densities have lower shrink losses.
3. Cover with an oxygen barrier film. Oxygen barrier film can cut the shrink loss in the outer two to three feet of silage by 50 percent or more. In comparison, it takes 60 sheets of standard white on black plastic to produce the same results.
4. Use an inoculant. The research is there to back the practice and an inoculant should be applied to every load of forage ensiled.
In addition to these four steps, it can also be helpful to host a team meeting prior to harvest. “Team meetings provide the opportunity for discussion of each party’s role in the harvest and ensiling process. They also help to ensure a safe and efficient silage program,” says Bolsen.