Ten tips for top silage

By Country News

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?