NSW DPI has provided 10 tips to produce quality silage.
1. Why conserve forage?
● What are your business goals?
● Does silage fit into the whole farm plan by meeting the production and management goals?
● Is silage the most economic and/or practical option to fill a feed gap, to balance the ration or utilise excess
2. Always target high quality silage. It:
● Maximises animal production potential.
● Reduces production, storage and feedout costs per unit of stored ME (metabolisable energy).
● Increases management flexibility.
3. Minimise costs:
● Are your harvesting, storage and feedout systems well matched to maximise efficiency and minimise
● Should you invest capital in silage equipment? Should you consider using a contractor?
● Will capital investment increase efficiency and therefore increase profitability?
4. Start with high quality forage:
● Grow crops and pastures that produce high quality forage and have high yield potential.
5. Cut at the recommended growth stage:
● Forage quality declines as the crop or pasture matures. Time of harvest is important.
● Consider the effect on regrowth of pastures and forage crops.
● Maximise pasture utilisation by integrating silage cuts with grazing.
6. Wilt as quickly as possible to target dry matter (ideally within 24 hours, but less than 48):
● Leave the swath as wide as possible.
● Use a mower conditioner.
● Use a tedder to spread the windrow.
● Don’t over-wilt — field losses increase and silage is harder to compact.
7. Minimise losses (of quality and quantity) during harvest and storage:
● Harvest at the target dry matter level.
● Certain additives will improve silage fermentation if wilting conditions are poor.
● Even when good silage preservation is expected, inoculants can improve silage quality and animal production.
● Additives will not compensate for poor silage management (late harvest, slow wilting or poor sealing).
If making chopped silage:
● Roll pits/stacks/bunkers throughout the harvest process to eliminate air.
● Finer chop will be easier to compact.
● Seal pits or stacks as soon as harvest is complete, ideally within three days of starting large pits or stacks.
If making baled silage:
● Aim for high density bales to minimise air pockets.
● Wrap or seal bales as soon as possible after baling.
● Minimise damage to stretch-wrap by wrapping at the storage site or use specialist equipment to transport bales to storage.
8. Ensure feedout system will support high intake:
● Ease of removing and eating the silage (accessibility) affects intake.
● The feeding space allocated per animal and access time will affect intake.
9. Minimise losses during feedout:
● Good feeding facilities will reduce losses.
● Control access during feeding to eliminate trampling and fouling.
● Feed regularly and only in quantities that will be consumed between feeds.
● Keep feedout areas clean to prevent contamination of fresh batches.
● High feed quality will reduce wastage.
10. Evaluate the whole silage system — how can it be made more profitable?
● Keep records of field operations — were all operations done at the right time? What could have been improved?
● Keep records of what crops/pasture are stored.
● Use feed tests to monitor silage quality. Is it acceptable? Given the parent forage, should it be better?
● Use feed tests to monitor animal production.
● Monitor storage losses. Can you explain why you are getting losses in storage?
● Estimate feedout losses. How can they be reduced?
● Monitor silage costs. Are there opportunities for reducing costs?