Over the last 20 years the process of preserving farm produce has changed significantly. The older ones amongst us will remember the days of bagging round bale silage, a difficult and costly process. In 1995 the Uk saw a new approach to preserving round bale fodder, the art of wrapping using a pre-stretched film became available. Labour costs were significantly reduced over night.
Since the introduction of Bale wrapping, the procedure is straight forward, but the science is more complicated. For guidance on producing the best quality livestock fodder, download the PDF guidance document here.
Rotary rakes.... how do they work?
The rotary rake is a fairly new addition to the UK, It was seen first in the late 1990's and is now a common site in the British harvest fields. There are three main types, single rotor, twin rotor and quad. Understanding the engineering behind the process is not so simple, download our PDF guidance document here.
Round Baling, fixed or variable chamber balers?
The majority of baling in Staffordshire is carried out with a round baler. Square balers can be seen in the fields around staffordshire but are not quite as common as the round baler. Two types of round baler exist, the belt baler or variable round baler, and the fixed chamber baler sometimes known as the roller baler. Our balers are all fixed chamber versions. Download the PDF guides below to see the main differences.
Harvest facts.. A reference guide
With Millions of bales produced each year on thousands of farms all over the Uk, Our FAQ guide is FREE to use and offers advice and technical support for Farmers, Hay, Haylage and Silage producers.
How to make good quality hay?
The colour, smell and absence of dust defines a good crop of hay. It should be bright greenor yellow and have a sweet smell with no dust.
Yields of hay are variable but it should be noted that nitrogen can stunt the curing or making process. A maximum rate of 80kg of nitrogen per hectare for the period of grass growth should not be exceeded.
A light crop of hay would be considered to yield 2 – 3 tonnes per hectare of made hay, a medium crop 4.5 tonnes of made hay per hectare and a heavy crop 5+ tonnes of made hay per hectare.
A standard small square bale of hay typically measures 0.9m x 0.45m x 0.35m and weighs between 20 – 30 kg, of course depending on bale density and type of grass. This would result in 33 – 50 bales per tonne.
A large round bale measures approximately 1.5 m high x 1.8m and typically weighs 500 – 600kg. This is about 25 times larger than a conventional rectangular hay bale.
A large rectangular bale weighs approximately the same as a round bale with dimensions typically of 1.5m x 1.5m x 2.4m.
How to make good quality Silage?
The process of ensilage or silage making consists of preserving green forage crops under acidic conditions ensuring they remain in a succulent and appetising state. Grass is cut and heaped together where it respires until all of the oxygen in it is exhausted. Bacteria will then control the process of fermentation silage has to go through so that it isin a preserved state. These bacteria which are present on the crop fall into two categories desirable and undesirable.
The desirable bacteria are the ones which can convert carbohydrate into lactic acid and are usually of the strains lactobacillus and streptococcus. They are anaerobic bacteria and they need to be evenly distributed throughout the crop.
This is encouraged by chopping of the grass and the rapid consolidation of the exclusion of air. Lactic acid is a strong organic acid and its rapid production in the ensiled grass leads to a low pH and conditions which will inhibit the lactic acid producing bacteriaand all other bacteria in addition. This is known as pickling and the pH at which this develops depends on the moisture content of the grass. The wetter the grass is the lower the pH needs to be and the greater amount of lactic acid that needs to be produced.Wet silage of approximately 20% dry matter will require a pH of around 4.0 for the silage to be stable but grass at 30% dry matter will need a pH of 4.6–4.8.
Good silage is light brown in colour, has a sharp taste and little smell as its lactic acid content is right. It is very stable and can be kept for years if required provided that oxygen is restricted from the material. For the best fermentation to occur the crop should have a high carbohydrate content and a low moisture content. Cutting should take place when their carbohydrate (soluble sugar) content is high and when the grass can be wilted swiftly. Sugar content should be at least 3% at cutting and grass should be wilted at a moisture content of 80% down to one of 70-75%.
Expected yields of silage can vary from 6–18 tonnes per hectare of silage fed depending on the time of year, dry matter, variety and fermentation success.
Undesirable bacteria should be reduced where possible. The undesirable bacteria are:
Obligate anaerobes of the clostridium species that can ferment carbohydrate and lactic acid to form butyric acid.
Aerobic species of bacteria that can oxidise carbohydrate to form carbon dioxide and water.
Clostridium sporogenes which can break down amino acids to produce ammonia and amines, some of which are toxic to animals.
Butyric silage will have a rancid smell and be of a dark, olive green appearance. This is unpalatable to all stock. It is also less stable as it has a higher level of lactic acid which means its life is limited to a few months.
The clostridial activity in silage should be reduced by:
Reducing the moisture level of the crop as this will ensure less acid is needed to complete the ensiling process
Ensuring adequate carbohydrate is present for the lactic acid bacteria. If this is not the case apply an acid to assist this process of lowering the pH level.Avoiding soil contamination within the grass when either cut or picked up by machine.
The intrusion of air in the fermentation process will delay or even prevent the correct pH level being achieved. This will lead to an excessive amount of carbohydrate being used which will lower the feed value of the silage. Intrusion of air after the silage has reached a stable condition will result in a further loss of condition throughsecondary respiration and reduced carbohydrates. This will shorten the life of the product. This can also result if a silo is opened or the face of the clamp is too large for the amount of silage being removed by stock on a regular basis.
Silage making can result in a considerable loss of original grass through the wilting, fermentation and feeding period. Field losses can amount to 0–10% of the dry matter content and are usually caused by the degree of wilting in the field. Losses in the fermentation process are also experienced and these can be between 10 and 20% of dry matter content. There is also visible waste from clamps and silos from their sides and tops and this can be between 5 and 15% of dry matter.
It is therefore expected on an excellent silage system to have only 80% of the dry matter of the grass to reach the end silage product and sometimes this figure on poorer systems can be as low as 65-70%.
Additives are available to help maximise the quality of silage produced. There are three main types of additives:
Sugars/carbohydrates – by adding extra sugar or molasses the crop is more able to produce lactic acid. Some additives contain materials to stimulate the lactobacilli bacteria.
Acids – formic and sulphuric acid are applied at a rate of between 3–5 litres per tonne as the grass is picked up in the field. This reduces the quantity of lactic acid needed to reach a stable pH.
Preservatives – these suppress chemical reactions and allow the fermentation process more easily. These are usually within acid additives.
Traditional storage methods on farms have been silos, towers and clamps. However bales are now becoming increasingly popular, due to ease of transport and also mobility of feeding. Bales are wrapped using a pre-stretched film to seal them from the environment and can be of wrapped in three separate colours. Black is the most common colour but white and green are available.
White promotes a lower fermentation temperature as it reflects the sun and green is often demanded for its aesthetic impact particularly in national parks. Care should be taken when moving bales to avoid punctures as this will start the secondary fermentation process with any holes or tears being repaired. Stacks of bales should also be routinely inspected for bird and vermin damage and nets should ideally be placed over them.
The farmers weekly have produced a usefull eight point plan on how to improve the quality of silage making, visit their web site to see the plan: