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Topics : Hay & Silage : Hay & Silage Preservation : Large Round Bale Silage

Large Round Bale Silage

Advantages & Disadvantages of Large Round Bale Silage

Making round bale silage consists of wilting a forage to 50 to 60 percent moisture content, baling it in a round baler, and ensiling it within a plastic cover. This silage-making technique can be used as a feed option by any farmer who produces forage, and it does not require a large silo or haylage harvesting equipment.

Round bale silage, like any storage method, has its strengths and weaknesses. As a low-cost storage unit for long-stem grasses or legumes, it benefits the small or part-time farmer in particular. The bales can be placed in convenient locations around the farm to provide small feeding units for planned consumption time. If silo capacity is lacking during times of forage surplus, round bale silage can supply needed storage capacity. In addition, large round bale silage can provide more precise allocation of forages, based on quality, to different classes of animals than either upright or bunk type silos. However, the storage cost per ton of forage is greater than for a permanent storage structure that will be filled twice each year. Disposal of the used plastic wrap or bag is also an environmental concern.

Another advantage is shortened harvesting time, since the cut crop needs to wilt only a few hours before baling. Anticipated rainstorms or high-humidity conditions are a constant risk when working with hay in Pennsylvania, but are less of a problem with silage. The 50 to 60 percent moisture content at baling reduces leaf loss during harvest, which results in a higher quality protein source than field-cured hay. Ensiling does not, however, improve forage quality. The general adage of "garbage in - garbage out" is certainly true with ensiled forage regardless of the storage structure.

Making and feeding the silage bales are labor efficient. One person can complete the steps involved in making round bale silage if adequate equipment is available. Without a well-designed feeder, feeding and trampling losses are comparable to or greater than hay losses. Assuring tight bale seals is of utmost importance since uncontrollable air leaks can result in varied feed value, mold, and excessive spoilage losses.