Plan to Feedout: Maintaining Quality at Bunker for High Energy Feed

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Dairy Guide

Making silage takes a lot of time, management and effort. Once it’s in the silo and fermenting, you want to plan for the best quality feedout.

In a bunker or pile, assess the silage right around the ramp first. It isn’t usually packed as tight as the middle which can damage quality. Assess it visually and by smell, and determine its temperature.

“Take the time to assess your silage quality before beginning feedout,” said Dr. Limin Kung Jr., professor of dairy nutrition and head of the Silage Fermentation Laboratory at the University of Delaware. “If you are mixing poor quality silage with the good stuff, it doesn’t take much
poor quality silage to have a negative effect on the animal.”

A dramatic change in a cow’s diet can send rumen microbes into a bit of a shock, leading to reduced intake and a dip in production. Blend new silage with last year’s silage and increase the percent over a week or more. Take a silage sample and send it to the lab for analysis. Be safe - do not ever walk up to the silo face and take a sample. Take your silage sample from the TMR (total mixed ration) wagon.

Next, assess the crust, the very top of the bunker or pile. There could be a few inches or as much as a foot of poor-quality silage that may need to be disposed.


  • Know how much feed you need per day and only remove the six to 12 inches of silage that will be used.
  • If silage is slightly to moderately compromised, consider feeding to heifers or dry cows.
  • If you can’t feed your silage fast enough, add an organic acid additive to limit further spoilage.
  • Use a defacer to create a fl at face. Avoid a cookie cutter block face with more surface area exposed to oxygen.
  • Remove silage that’s markedly spoiled and or completely black.

“Packing is the most critical part the harvest. If silage is packed well and put up at the right moisture, it can make really nice feed. But if you don’t do it right, you can mess it up pretty easily. So, it’s important to stay focused.” - Bruce Verhasselt, Verhasselt Farms, Freedom, Wisconsin

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