Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Silage and nutrition experts help producers reduce waste

June 4, 2019 by  
Filed under Livestock

Livestock producers are being encouraged to focus on silage clamp consolidation and sealing to preserve better quality forage and reduce feed waste.

With a quarter of silage dry matter losses occurring during storage, nutrient specialists Alltech and feed conservation specialists Silage Solutions are working together to reduce the amount of waste on farms.

Most of storage losses are invisible and therefore often overlooked by farmers, says Dave Davies of Silage Solutions. But the financial implications are high, with losses typically adding over 25% to the cost of silage production.

“The real cost of production for every tonne of dry matter silage made is around £160 compared to £120/t of dry matter. On top of this, dry matter losses reduce silage quality – most notably the level of metabolisable energy.”

Reducing losses

When the associated impact this has on milk production is considered, it equates to a further £30/t, says Dr Davies. Individual businesses could easily be experiencing financial losses in excess of £15,000 based on 1,000t fresh weight of silage at 30% dry matter.

The good news is that it is possible to significantly reduce losses at storage.

This was highlighted in a recent Alltech Feed Waste Reduction Initiative on-farm pilot study, which assessed storage losses on 34 farms. Even farms with no visible losses were losing more than 10% of dry matter, it found.

Better consolidation and sealing of the clamp is key to reducing losses at storage, says Dr Davies. Producers should aim to achieve a density of 750kg of fresh matter per cubic metre, or 220-250kg of DM per cubic metre, when rolling grass in the clamp.

Roll and sheet

“A high density can be achieved by layering forage in the clamp, in layers no thicker than 15cm, and rolling each layer between loads, starting right from the first load,” adds Dr Davies.

“Following consolidation, it’s important not to overlook correct sheeting of the clamp to ensure an airtight seal and prevent oxygen ingress during storage. I recommend using a side sheet, oxygen barrier film and top sheet.”

Sufficient top weight should then be applied to form a firm seal, says Dr Davies.

“The junction between the wall, the top sheet and the ramp are often problem areas and require particular care. For example, gravel bags should ideally be positioned around the complete periphery of the clamp as well as down the ramp at the front.”

Extra cover

Feed wastage can be reduced to zero by adding an additional thin clear film directly to the top of freshly clamped silage under the traditional black plastic sheet, according to plastic specialists RPC BPI.

“With conserved forage in short supply following last year’s poor grass growing season, reducing post harvest losses will help farmers make and store as much as possible this year,” says agriculture sales director Lloyd Dawson.

“A thin, flexible and low permeability top sheet, makes a real impact on reducing top or shoulder waste.”

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