Managing Effluent Runoff

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In less-than-ideal harvest conditions, producers may be forced to ensile forages at high-moisture content. Early harvests — with moisture levels higher than 70% — can lead to increased effluent runoff. 

Also called seepage, it is the liquid squeezed out of forage after it is packed in an ensiling structure. Silage effluent is a high-nutrient liquid waste product with a high biological-oxygen demand (BOD), similar to liquid slurry. Effluent will no longer be produced once forage reaches  about 32% dry matter (DM) in silage bunkers or drive-over piles. 

If not properly drained, effluent adversely effects the fermentation of forage and can encourage the formation of undesirable acids and ammonia.

Typically, effluent has a pH between 3.5 and 5.0, making it highly corrosive to both metal and concrete and capable of damaging the silage storage structure. In addition, effluent run-off can cause environmental damage.

Excess effluent production can be prevented by:

  • Harvesting at a sufficiently high DM
  • Increasing the length of the forage chop at ensiling
  • Reducing the level of compaction of the forage
  • Including layers of adsorbent material, such as straw
  • Covering horizontal silos to reduce the prolonged flow of effluent

Effluent production can also be managed when designing a bunker or drive-over pile by: 

  • Locating silage-storage structures away from open waterways and wells
  • Preparing the ensiling site to divert water and effluent from the silage and toward a common collection and treatment point
  • Installing an effluent collector at the silo entrance to help control effluent run-off

Silage effluent also can be captured, diluted and used as a fertilizer but should be carefully managed — especially if mixed with slurry due to the potential production of hazardous gases, such as hydrogen sulfide. 

More information about properly storing silage can be found at www.qualitysilage.com.

 

Sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition

 
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